Georgia’s Amarius Mims shares about his transfer-portal experience

ATHENS — Amarius Mims was beaming. There really was no other way to describe it.

With his tightly wound dreads dyed Georgia red and the Bulldogs’ official backdrop barely able to contain his 6-foot-7, 330-pound frame, Mims stood before reporters Monday and matter-of-factly answered a barrage of questions that might have seemed impertinent a few months ago.

What was he thinking when he entered the transfer portal?

Did NIL have anything to do with leaving or coming back?

Why did you come back anyway? Was it all about playing time? Something else?

Mims not only answered them all deliberately and patiently, he did it with a grin on his face. It is evident that, for now at least, Mims is content.

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“I’m excited, man,” Mims said in what was his first media-day availability since coming to Georgia as a five-star prospect out of Bleckley County. “When I came back, I wasn’t sure if I was going to actually play or not. But right now, I’m getting meaningful snaps, and I’m in the lineup early. I’d say the hard work I put in from April until now didn’t go unnoticed.”

No, it hasn’t. Of course, it’s hard not to notice Mims when he comes on the field. Generally, No. 65 is the biggest guy on the gridiron when he does. And he’s in games a lot this season.

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Usually, he relieves starter Warren McClendon at right tackle. Occasionally, he might get some snaps at left tackle while Broderick Jones takes a breather. Sometimes McClendon goes to left tackle while Mims goes in at right. If things are going really well, it might be the sophomore Mims and Chad Lindberg manning the tackles.

It’s a beautiful illustration of Georgia’s personnel riches on the offensive line. It has to be frustrating for opposing defenses when the Bulldogs replace former four-star prospects with bigger, well-rested five-stars.

“I think he has more confidence going into the game in more meaningful moments,” coach Kirby Smart said Monday. “You know, he’s extremely athletic and talented, and we really stressed to him how much he can improve in terms of his run-game and pass-game (blocking) and his knowledge of the game. The only way you get better at that point is to go play. He’s gotten to play quite a bit in the last three games. So, we want him to continue to do that.”

Playing time – or the lack of it – was a big part of Mims’ frustration last season. That, he revealed Monday, was the ultimate reason he entered the transfer portal early in Georgia’s spring practice in April.

Mims immediately drew major interest from Florida State, among other programs. He actually made a very public visit to the Seminoles’ facilities in Tallahassee in April. But after making that trip and meeting with Smart upon his return, Mims decided to stick with the Bulldogs.

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Mims explained his thinking.

“I came in highly recruited, you know, and just wanted to play,” he said. “But I’ve matured mentally, you know, from freshman to sophomore year, and I realized going in the portal wasn’t the best idea for me. By coming back my sophomore year, I feel like Georgia is the best place for developing me.”

The reaction of the Bulldogs’ coaching staff to Mims entering the portal in the first place was another reason Mims said he decided to come back.

“It was more, like, ‘We’re going to give you time. We don’t want to force anything on you, but we want you here still,’” Mims said. “That definitely was important. I went in and experienced the portal. But there’s nothing like Georgia, so I came back.”

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Von Lassiter, Mims’ coach at Bleckley County, also served as counsel. Today’s world of college football is much different than it was even a couple of years ago. There not only are financial promises being made, life-changing income is at the disposal of select players and their families.

“He knew where I stood about making a commitment,” Lassiter said. “Maybe I’m old-school and old-fashioned about that, but I feel that’s important. I know there’s a business side of it these days and that kind of thing, but I knew Amarius would make the right decision, and he did. I’m here for him wherever he plays, but I want him to play at Georgia because that’s where he originally committed. But the ins and outs of all that, that’s for him and his family to decide.”

Mims insists finances weren’t part of his consideration.

“NIL didn’t impact it at all,” he said. “It was just more of a decision of me growing up and maturing and just realizing Georgia is the best place for me.”

The irony of Mims’ whole situation is the player who has done the most to prevent Mims from getting on the field as often as he’d like – the 27-consecutive-game starter McClendon – has become Mims’ greatest resource for learning what to do to earn a starting role. McClendon has wholly taken Mims under his wing.

“I just talk to him about technical things, like being more physical in the run game,” McClendon said. “You know, Amarius is big, so for him especially, you have to get really low in the run game. So I talk to him about getting lower coming off the ball and being more physical, things like that.”

Mims has known the 6-4, 300-pound McClendon since the two of them were being raised in southeast Georgia. They were coached by the same offensive line coach in high school – Ryan McKenzie, who is now head coach at Chattahoochee County. So, they go back.

And McClendon has Mims’ total and complete respect.

“Warren is the most technically sound tackle I’ve ever met in my life,” Mims said, shaking his head in wonder. “I learn so much from him. I may be bigger than him, you know, but I watch his game more than anybody will ever know. I watch him and ask him for tips. We’ll sit down and watch film together, and we’ll go over everything, from pass sets to run blocking. I model my game more after him.

“Him being there in that big-brother role, telling me, ‘This is what we do, this is how we do it and this is what you can do to get better’ – that’s our relationship, and that’s a good thing.”

His relationships with teammates and coaches at Georgia are the main reason why Mims is beaming these days. He’s still not filling the starting role he so covets, but Mims is playing a lot and knows it’s just a matter of time.

Meantime, he has learned to enjoy the ride. A changed man now, Mims stands as a shining example of how to embrace “the process” of development at Georgia.

“Definitely just maturing, realizing that I have an important role,” Mims said. “When I’m out there, it’s expected to not have any falloff, whether I’m going in for Warren or anybody else. They expect me when I go in to have their backs, and I know they’ve got my back.”