Transfer portal illustrates another stark differences between Kirby Smart and Dan Mullen – DawgNation

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Transfer portal shows stark differences between Kirby Smart and Dan Mullen

Say what you want about Dan Mullen — and there is plenty — but the Florida head coach knows how to get the best out of the transfer portal.

Arik Gilbert is the latest example, as the 5-star tight end announced he was transferring to Florida on Sunday.

Gilbert becomes the sixth former 5-star recruit to transfer to Florida since Mullen took over as the head coach for the Gators prior to the 2018 season. Mullen has time and time again gone to the portal to add more talent to his roster.

It has also helped him make up for some of the recruiting misses the Gators have had in recent seasons. Florida is set to sign the No. 13 class in the 2021 cycle, a step down from the Clemson’s and Alabama’s of the world.

The Gators will have seven 5-star prospects on their 2021 roster. Only two of them signed with Florida as prospects out of high school. There’s a very real chance Florida’s top running back, wide receiver, pass rusher and now tight end for the 2021 season all came from the transfer portal.

Kirby Smart has a very different approach to the portal and using it to build his team. For those that have listened to him talk about transfers, you can tell he’s not a fan of the concept.

“It’s a need base for us,” Smart said prior to the Peach Bowl. “If I had my preference, I would rather not use the portal because schools like Cincinnati and Georgia shouldn’t have to, you should be able to go out and recruit the right kind of guys.”

That hasn’t stopped Georgia from going into the transfer portal to grab talent. It has just traditionally been a one-year, graduate player, compared to the multi-year stays that Brenton Cox and Demarkcus Bowman have had in Gainesville, Fla.

The Bulldogs have brought in two graduate transfers in each of the last two cycles. In 2019, tight end Eli Wolf and wide receiver Lawrence Cager joined the Bulldogs. This past season, Georgia brought in tight end Tre’ McKitty and quarterback Jamie Newman.

Newman ended up not playing for Georgia as he opted out prior to the start of the season. Which is why the Bulldogs were fortunate they dipped into the portal to grab JT Daniels over the summer.

The quarterback position for Georgia was certainly a need entering the 2020 season. Jake Fromm was off in the NFL and Newman didn’t get a chance to go through spring practice. With backups D’Wan Mathis, Carson Beck and Stetson Bennett unproven, adding someone like Daniels who had double-digit starts at USC made sense for 2020 at least and definitely for 2021.

We ended up seeing how crucial Daniels was for the 2020 team. After entering the starting lineup, the Bulldogs went 4-0 including a win in the Peach Bowl over Cincinnati. Without Daniels, the Georgia offense looked more like the one the Bulldogs had at the end of the 2019 season.

The USC transfer quarterback has proven to this point to be an anomaly when it comes to non-graduate transfers in Athens. Prior to bringing him in, the only other non-graduate transfer Georgia has brought in recent seasons was Demetris Robertson. He joined the Georgia program prior to the 2018 season after coming from Cal.

Part of the reason for this is the case is Smart’s previously stated preference. There’s also the fact that Georgia has recruited elite talent at a better rate than Florida has. The Bulldogs are on the verge of signing their fifth consecutive top-3 recruiting class. Florida has just two top-10 classes in that same span.

The Bulldogs will be well-stocked with 5-star talent entering the 2021 season, even without Gilbert on the roster. Georgia will have 17 former 5-star prospects. Daniels is the only one not to sign with Georgia out of high school.

With Georgia recruiting as well as it has, and not just at the 5-star level, the Bulldogs stand to lose from the transfer portal far more often than they gain. This offseason has already seen seven Bulldogs on scholarship enter the transfer portal. Some of those include 2020 contributors like Tyrique Stevenson and Jermaine Johnson, who would’ve been key players on the 2021 defense had they stayed with Georgia.

Related: Tyrique Stevenson transfers to Miami

The Bulldogs are well-stocked at most positions on the 2021 defense, so they’re able to withstand some of the losses. But not all of them will be filled by incoming recruits who are ready to play immediately.

Georgia will likely turn to the portal at some point this offseason to bring in talent. The Bulldogs have a big need at cornerback and an experienced player looking for a chance to play for a contender — like Newman, McKitty, Wolf and Cager all were — likely helps Georgia fill that void.

If Gilbert truly wanted to play at Georgia, the Bulldogs would’ve welcomed him with open arms. He’s that good of a player and will no doubt be a thorn in Georgia’s side when the two sides meet in Jacksonville, Fla.

But Georgia signed a 5-star tight end in the 2020 recruiting class in Darnell Washington. And it added a fringe top-100 player in the 2021 class in Brock Bowers. There wasn’t a need for Gilbert at Georgia like there was at Florida.

Related: Arik Gilbert may have been a want for Georgia football, but he wasn’t a need for tight end room

Mullen and the Gators got the better of Georgia in 2020, with transfer players Trevon Grimes and Shorter catching touchdown passes in the win. If Florida continues to find success and hang with the elite teams in college football, Smart will have to re-evaluate how he uses the transfer portal.

For right now though, the Bulldogs have found success in the more traditional ways of procuring talent. Georgia to beat Florida in 2018 and 2019 thanks to that model. We’ll see what 2021 has in store for these two programs.

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