Part of recruiting in college football is finding junior college transfers that can help fill an immediate need on a team, as they are usually better prepared to play right away than true freshmen. The Georgia Bulldogs have had success with junior college players in the past, especially with the arrival of monster defensive tackle John Jenkins two years ago. But after bringing in one junior college transfer in each of the last four seasons, this year Georgia head coach Mark Richt signed five. Is it possible that five is too many and relying that much on junior college players could come back to hurt Georgia at some point?
It’s not that junior college transfers aren’t good players, it’s that they leave after only a year or two, contributing less in their time than incoming freshmen that will stay for four or five years. Junior college players are great for filling an immediate need if a younger player isn’t yet ready, and that’s what Georgia has done with great success the last few seasons, but too many junior college recruits in one year, like the five the Bulldogs brought in this year, can be a sign of desperation. Moreover, if those players don’t pan out, and there aren’t younger players capable of getting the job done either, the entire team can suffer; and that’s the risk Richt and Georgia are running with such a large crop of junior college players this year.
Of course, considering the circumstances, it’s tough to fault Richt for going in that direction. The Bulldogs are losing all four starters from their secondary, two of their three starters on the defensive line, and four of their top eight linebackers. As a result, they will depend on junior college transfers Chris Mayes and Toby Johnson to contribute immediately along the defensive line, which isn’t always a given for players at the line of scrimmage entering the SEC. Georgia will also rely on Shaquille Fluker and Kennar Johnson to step out of junior college and step right into their secondary and take on major roles.
If any of those four players struggle in their adjustment to SEC football, it will put the Bulldogs in a tough position as their production and depth at those positions will suffer. Even if those players do pan out this year, they will deny younger players of valuable experience that they will need in future years after those junior college players have moved on. But that’s the risk that Georgia is taking this year with their defense. With most of their offense returning, if the Bulldogs can find viable replacements for all that they’ve lost on defense, they’ll be able to make one more serious run at an SEC championship and a national championship. It’s a risk-reward scenario for Georgia, and we’ll find out this fall if it pays off or not.