Georgia, Kirby Smart's Transfer Success Predates the Portal

Georgia Football's success on the transfer market isn't a recent phenomenon. Head coach Kirby Smart has been signing solid transfers since returning to Athens.

Georgia Football has dominated the transfer market this offseason. Only Oklahoma and Alabama have rivaled Georgia's success in the NCAA transfer portal.

Just this week, two of the best available transfers joined the team: Offensive weapon Arik Gilbert and cornerback Derion Kendrick. All-America defensive back Tykee Smith committed to Georgia in April and Alabama safety Brandon Turnage committed in May.

This success on the transfer market would be surprising if it wasn't business as usual. Head coach Kirby Smart has been one of the best coaches at getting transfers since his hiring in 2016.

In his first year at Georgia, Smart brought Alabama graduate safety Maurice Smith with him. Smith had a fantastic season at Georgia, totaling 50 passes defenses and intercepting two. One of his interceptions was a pick-six in a 13-7 upset win over Auburn. 

Smith helped set a new standard on Georgia's defense, particularly at the nickel-STAR position. That led to Smart's next victory in the transfer market: J.R. Reed.

Reed started his career at Tulsa in 2015 before transferring to Georgia in 2016. Old NCAA transfer rules required him to sit out a year, but when Reed became eligible in 2017, he immediately became one of the best players on a great defense. In three years, Reed totaled 199 tackles with five interceptions, three fumble recoveries, two strips and two touchdowns.

Reed didn't just shine on game day; he was a leader in all areas of the program. He even participated in SEC Media Days as a junior in 2018. If Smith opened the door for transfers to become prominent players instantly at Georgia, Reed laid down the red carpet.

He wasn't the only notable transfer in 2017. That year, Smart brought Columbia punter Cameron Nizialek to Athens. With Nizialek booting the ball, Georgia improved from No. 108 in the nation in 2016 (Marshall Long,  38.7 yards per punt) to No. 11 (45 yards per punt). 

The next major transfer to come to Athens was wide receiver Demetris Robertson in the summer of 2018. Robertson had a fantastic freshman season at California in 2016, but a leg injury ended his 2017 campaign after just two games. When a family emergency happened, Robertson transferred to Georgia to be closer to home. 

Aside from a hot start to the 2019 season, Robertson has yet to live up to expectations.  But he's still on the team as a sixth-year senior, and Georgia's offense is radically changing in his favor this season.

When the NCAA created the transfer portal in October, 2018, Georgia was ready to take advantage. Since then, the Bulldogs have made use of the portal. Lawrence Cager and Eli Wolf made an immediate impact on Georgia's offense in 2019. 

The Bulldogs totally rebuilt their quarterback room through the portal a year ago. Unfortunately for them, Jamie Newman opted out and JT Daniels wasn't healthy enough to play right away. Still, without COVID-19, Georgia was set at quarterback because of the portal.

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