On Tuesday, reports surfaced that talented Georgia running back A.J. Turman was granted his release to transfer after seeing no game action in his two years on campus. Yes, this is the same A.J. Turman who was the star of the last two G-Day Spring games, scoring a combined four total touchdowns.
Since then, it has become abundantly clear that new head coach Kirby Smart has made at least one major philosophy change since taking the helm in Athens: UGA transfer restrictions. Apparently, Smart granted Turman’s release on two conditions – he does not enroll at University of Florida or University of Miami.
Under former head coach Mark Richt – who, full disclosure, I was sad to see go – UGA transfer rules were simple. They were always unconditional, which is something I loved about the Georgia football program. The philosophy was that if a football player did not feel ‘at home’ in Athens, he had the choice to find the right fit for him at any other school.
Now, the detractors of the unconditional transfer will likely say they don’t want to see elite talent leave UGA for a rival school or other SEC program, which I honestly understand. However, what kind of message is Georgia sending to an athlete that just wants a shot at chasing his dream of playing meaningful football in college? Are the UGA transfer restrictions worth it?
Take Turman for example: he has great talent, but has not played a down behind the star-studded running back corps at Georgia. He wants to transfer somewhere closer to home – which is near Orlando, Florida – where he feels he will be able to compete for a higher spot on the depth chart. Instead, because of the imposed UGA transfer restrictions, Turman’s options of transferring to a strong program in his home state have been reduced significantly.
Yes, Florida is a huge rival for Georgia. And yes, it has been hard to watch former Georgia players stand on an opponent’s sideline on game day. In my opinion, however, blocking a player from transferring to a rival simply because you might see them against you down the road is extremely narrow-minded. Sure, you could argue that he has some sort of inside information on Georgia and its playbook, but it’s unlikely Turman has really grasped much since Smart and new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney took over.
With Miami, don’t even get me started. Is this Smart’s way of sticking it to Richt, who is now the head coach for the Hurricanes? It is extremely unlikely Georgia will play Miami at all during Turman’s remaining eligibility. Is Smart trying to send a message to other players that they will not be allowed to transfer to play for Richt? The decision for a UGA transfer restriction to include Miami is mind-boggling.
With a new administration, change is always inevitable, and I am honestly excited to see the Kirby Smart era of Georgia football. But, to me, the benefits of restricting transfers are outweighed by the potential negative impact on player morale and the overall reputation of the Georgia football program.