Georgia Bulldogs expect big things from their transfers

Credit: SEC

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels responds to questions about the Bulldogs' offense and its players at SEC Media Days.

Credit: SEC

HOOVER, Ala. — By the time he got his turn Tuesday at the podium in the “big room” at SEC Football Media Days, JT Daniels already had been interviewed by a variety of media outlets throughout the Wynfrey Hotel. So he laughed when one of the first questions he fielded was about Arik Gilbert.

“I’ve been asked more about Arik more than anything else today,” Georgia’s quarterback remarked with a chuckle. “I keep saying the same thing.”

Which was, essentially, that he expects Gilbert to be really, really good and utilized a lot in his first season with the Bulldogs.

Gilbert had perhaps the highest profile of three very significant transfer-portal acquisitions the Bulldogs made in the offseason. Georgia also landed Derion Kendrick, a former All-ACC cornerback from Clemson, and Tykee Smith, an All-American safety from West Virginia.

While it’s extremely hard to quantify, Georgia generally is thought to have made out as well as any team in the country when it comes to the talent it brought in from the transfer portal. Of course, some pretty decent talent left UGA as well.

But in terms of addressing specific needs on their roster, it’s hard to think of many others making out better than the Bulldogs. All three of their acquisitions project as primary contributors, if not starters.

  • Gilbert, a 6-foot-5, 248-pound sophomore, came to Georgia after a freshman All-American season at LSU. While Gilbert played tight end with the Tigers, coach Kirby Smart confirmed Tuesday that he’s working with the Bulldogs’ wideouts and could absorb some of the snaps at split end with the spring ACL injury of All-SEC split end George Pickens.
  • Smith is expected to fill in at Georgia’s star/nickel back position, which was fielded the past few years by graduated NFL draftee Mark Webb. Smith earned first-team All-American honors playing a similar position known as the “spear” at West Virginia, where he was coached by new UGA defensive backs coach Jahmile Addae.
  • Kendrick left Clemson under somewhat controversial circumstances. But there’s nothing questionable about his contributions there, which include 23 starts at cornerback the past two seasons after signing with the Tigers as a wide receiver.

“I’m excited about them,” Smart said Tuesday. “They’re guys that have integrated into our team really smoothly. I think when you talk about players coming into a program, these guys are different because they were already integrated into a program. They’ve done this once before. They’ve handled meeting the players, and the players have embraced them.”

Credit: SEC

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart addresses his roster at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.

Credit: SEC

247Sports rated Georgia’s portal haul as the best in the SEC this year. Alabama, Florida and Kentucky also earned high marks.

Smart knows a little something about filling voids via transfer. He has made a significant offseason addition every year he has been Georgia’s coach. That goes back to his first season, when he brought in defensive back Mo Smith from Alabama.

And lest we forget, Daniels was a late-spring portal acquisition last year from Southern Cal. A year later, he was representing UGA at SEC Media Days on Tuesday as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback.

“Georgia called me right away, and I’m, like, ‘That’s a top-5 team, it’s a great school, it’s a great staff, they have great players,’ ” Daniels recounted Tuesday. “Like, what bad can you say about it? I couldn’t find a reason I wouldn’t go there. But I think coach Smart is the hardest worker you’ll meet. Any chance that he can get to give us an edge to win games, he’s going to do it. Those are some reasons I would contribute to Georgia being prominent in the transfer portal.”

Of course, the portal giveth and the portal taketh away. Georgia also lost one-time starters Tyrique Stevenson to Miami and Demetrius Robertson to Auburn, among others.

Smart said the majority of his staff’s energy always will be focused on recruiting the best players possible out of high school and convincing them to stay at Georgia for the entirety of their careers. But, obviously, he has found the portal quite effective for shoring up areas of weakness.

“It’s a need-based decision more than anything else,” he said. “We needed defensive backs. We’re under. We had two juniors come out, another guy leave and then another guy leave. I mean, we were at a deficit. So, it’s probably going to be the way of the world.”

Georgia’s current players insist they’re all for it.

“It’s really exciting because you see them flash at practice,” senior nose guard Jordan Davis said. “Tykee and Kendrick are both really good players. I’m excited to see what they do during the season. I think they’re going to show out.”

That goes for Gilbert as well.

“He’s amazing,” Daniels said. “He’s bigger than most (wideouts). He’s got the skill set to play a lot of positions in the game of football. We’ll try him out at all of them. You want to put your playmakers where they have the chance to make the most plays. Wherever that is, I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”