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Georgia Climbs Above CFB Chaos in Three Moves

“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder.” College football was chaotic last week with Nick Saban’s retirement from Alabama. Game of Thrones fans may have recognized the quote at the start of the article. It is from a conversation between Varys and Littlefinger during Season 3. In the show, the quote highlights that chaos can create opportunities for those ready to seize them. Saban’s retirement has led to the reopening of the transfer portal, initiating a coaching carousel that has affected Tuscaloosa, Seattle, and Tucson, with more changes expected. Amidst this chaos, Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs have skillfully navigated the situation, continuing to ascend to the top of college football’s elite. Here are three moves that show Georgia is ready to take the next step.

Georgia Rises Above CFB Chaos in Three Moves

Move 1: Recruiting Dominance

Georgia’s 2024 recruiting class is ranked number one nationwide by 247Sports and On3. Smart learned well that Saban’s success at Alabama hinged on an unrelenting pursuit of excellence and adaptability when it came to recruiting. Alabama signed 73 5-stars and 262 4-stars in Saban’s 16 full recruiting classes. The Class of 2024 is Smart’s third top-rated class since coming to Georgia in 2016. Smart and his staff have done so by taking a national approach to recruiting.

While this approach has irritated some in the Georgia Coaches Football Coaches Association, only nine of the 28 players in the class are from Georgia. The national strategy has enabled Georiga to take the next step in becoming one of the elite programs in the nation, bringing in Georiga legends like  Kelee Ringo (AZ) and Brock Bowers (CA). Looking at the 2024 class, Georgia has seven players who are either the #1 ranked player at their position or the #1 ranked player in their state.

#1 Position Ranking #1 State Ranking
Name Position State Name Position State
Ellis Robinson IV CB Florida Chris Cole LB Virginia
Justin Williams LB Texas Ondre Evans CB Tennessee
KJ Bolden S Georgia Jordan Thomas DL New Jersey
Drew Miller P Iowa

That number climbs to eight if  Dylan Raiola doesn’t flip to Nebraska. Smart laid out the reality of his national approach to recruiting on signing day. “I love getting kids from the state of Georgia. If I could sign every kid from Georgia, I would love to do that. That would be great. That’s not realistic. It’s just not.” Smart and his staff showed the state’s importance with their #FirstDayOut tweets last week. Each of the staff hit several schools across the state of Georgia. The conversation at Buford High School must have been interesting.

Move 2: Transfer Portal Additions

Navigating the college football roster in 2024 poses a significant challenge. The early transfer portal window officially closed on January 2nd, sort of. Players are provided a 30-day window to enter the portal if their head coach leaves their program. Saban’s retirement created a domino theory that will see the transfer portal extend into the middle of February, just in time for Spring ball and then the Spring transfer portal window to open. For most coaches, fans, and college football writers, this can cause chaos and uncertainty. Smart has used transfer chaos to climb.

Georgia bolstered its offensive personnel in the early transfer period. Trevor Etienne and London Humphreys are the top-rated position players in the portal at their respective positions. Each will fill a need left by graduation or entrants into the NFL Draft from Georgia’s 2023 roster. Smart is intimately familiar with Alabama’s roster, having recruited many of the players.

Smart added defensive back Jake Pope from the Crimson Tide this weekend. All eyes are on another Alabama safety with Georgia roots, Caleb Downs. The Mill Creek Georgia product led Alabama in tackles and was the first freshman to do so in program history. With the defensive staff still uncertain in Tuscaloosa, all eyes will be on Downs to see if he enters the portal. Smart offseason coaching moves have Georgia ready to pounce if he does.

Move 3: Coaching Turnover

Georgia is a top-rated program, and their assistant coaches will be in high demand for head coaching and coordinator positions around college football and the NFL. We are coming up on the first anniversary of Todd Monken stepping down as offensive coordinator and heading to the Baltimore Ravens. Smart elevated his former teammate Mike Bobo from offensive analyst to coordinator. The Georgia offense rarely missed a beat this season, as Bobo did a masterful job of bringing along Carson Beck. Smart hasn’t lost a coordinator (yet) this season, but he did have to replace Fran Brown when he took the head coaching job at Syracuse. To replace Brown, Smart hired two high-end secondary coaches. You may be saying two: did Smart forget how to count in the chaos of the coaching carousel? Nope, he just continued to climb.

Smart brought in Donte Williams in December to replace Brown. Williams is known as one of the top recruiters on the West Coast, with stops at Oregon and USC. He served as the interim coach at USC after Clay Helton was fired during the 2021 season. Georgia has successfully recruited out west, bringing in Kendall Milton, Darnell Washington, Bowers, and Ringo. Smart seized on Saban’s retirement to further bolster his staff when it was announced that Travaris Robinson would also be joining Georgia’s coaching staff.

Robinson was on Saban’s staff the last two years in Alabama but has a deep connection to the SEC and the Georgia staff. He and Will Muschamp have coached together at Florida, Auburn, and South Carolina. A college football staff is limited to ten onfield coaches. To make room for Robinson, Muschamp took a step back to return as an analyst for the 2024 season. Muschamp initially came to Georgia as an analyst before moving into the role of special teams coordinator for the 2021 season and co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach this season. Robinson is an excellent recruiter and will strongly influence if Georgia can bring more players east from Tuscaloosa, including Downs.

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports


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