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Kirby Smart talks Georgia's priorities, approach to transfer portal

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs04/16/24


ATHENS, Ga. — The transfer portal is officially open for the next 15 days, and it’s the talk of every college town across the country. After players had 30 days to enter back in December, each and every one has another opportunity now with spring practice complete. They’ve got a sense for their spot on their current team and can test the waters to see what their positioning for playing time elsewhere might look like. It’s not necessarily the most sustainable model, but Georgia head coach Kirby Smart tries not to lose too much sleep over it.

“Can I control it? I can’t. If I concern myself with things I can’t control, I won’t live long There’s just too much out there,” Smart said on Saturday after Georgia’s spring game. “It’s really one of those things of, ‘Do you want to be here? Or do you not?’ Because they know how we do things by now. They all know. That was the easiest practice we’ve had all spring. They enjoyed it thoroughly. Guys want to be somewhere else, I have no control over that.”

Smart made clear that the Bulldogs are going to be keeping an eye out for a transfer portal addition at quarterback. They have just three on scholarship – Carson Beck, Gunner Stockton, Ryan Puglisi – and while a starting spot might not be up for grabs this fall, it could be this time next year. Furthermore, depth is always a priority, and it’s something that the Dawgs might not have much comfort in right now with Puglisi banged up this spring and Stockton still inexperienced. Adding somebody with experience and multiple years of eligibility is something they tried to do earlier, briefly landing the commitment of UNLV’s Jayden Maiava. He decided to flip to USC, leaving Georgia to look for the right guy once again in the spring window.

Georgia will also look at other positions. It added seven scholarship players already with three wide receivers (London Humphreys, Michael Jackson III, Colbie Young), a tight end (Ben Yurosek), a running back (Trevor Etienne) and a pair of defensive players (DL Xzavier McLeod, DB Jake Pope). Another defensive lineman wouldn’t hurt, but elite players at that position rarely enter the portal – especially in the spring. If one were to enter, look for Georgia to be all over that.

Of course, the Bulldogs could have their eyes on another running back to fill the void left behind with Andrew Paul’s entry already this spring. The secondary has three players headed off to the NFL, and while the talent from traditional recruiting is rich, Smart might have a hard time turning down the right guy there. Point is, the portal is unpredictable.

While we can guess what positions Georgia is going to target, ultimately it comes down to fit. Georgia prioritizes players with the right intentions and a championship-focused mindset. Smart and his staff don’t want to get into a bidding war in the world of NIL. Whether it’s high school recruiting or portal pickups, he hopes the biggest motivating factor for future Bulldogs is winning football games. After all, that’s what it’s all about to him.

“NIL has impacted the recruitment of every player in terms of where does that rank on their scale. It’s one of the first questions of, ‘Is that number one priority? Is that two, three, four, five, six?’ Do you list it that way because you actually feel that way or you just think it’s the right answer,” Smart said. “You know, it used to be every kid came in and said, ‘Well, the most important thing to me is my education.’ Well, I don’t know many universities you get a bad education at. You know, they don’t hand out bad educations, so is that truly what people were coming to school for 10, 15, 20 years ago? Is it truly what they’re coming to school for now with NIL?

“I want a self-starter. I want a guy that’s committed to the program, who’s selfless,” he continued. “I want all of the same things: size, speed. I want all those same things. It’s more, be more selective over a kid you pick and choose from that the NIL is not the number one narrative.”

The transfer portal opening runs through the end of April. Players that enter from SEC schools are not permitted to transfer within the conference. At the time of publication, Georgia has had one player announce plans to enter – Andrew Paul – on top of the 18 that did so in the winter and graduate transfer Chad Lindberg, who entered prior to the start of spring practice.

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