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Georgia football enters ‘get stronger, get bigger phase’ as transfer portal options dwindle

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Georgia football looking inward as opposed to transfer portal

Former Georgia linebacker Quay Walker admits he did not reach his ceiling at Georgia. The first-round pick by the Green Bay Packers told reporters that Georgia asked him to do a lot of different things in his four seasons with the Bulldogs.

Play special teams. Contribute as a role player. Wait until his senior year to become a full-time starter.

“It humbled me a whole lot. That was my first time facing adversity,” Walker told reporters at Green Bay’s mini-camp. “By the time I got to Georgia and not really playing or starting until my senior year, it helped me a whole lot throughout life. Not just on the football field but throughout life.”

Walker added that he thought about transferring himself. But thanks to Georgia inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann, Walker ended up staying at Georgia, becoming a National Champion and ultimately a first-round pick.

The newest Green Bay Packer stayed at Georgia for four years, getting better and more polished each and every year. Polishing his game during the summer and sticking with the Georgia system that asked him to wear a number of hats.

Related: Green Bay’s Quay Walker was once ready to leave Georgia, gives testimony to value of trusting Kirby Smart’s system

As Georgia looks to develop its next Walker, it enters the crucial summer months.

It just happens that this next stage in the football calendar comes as the transfer portal that Walker once considered entering comes to a close.

“I don’t even think of this next phase as transfer portal phase, I think of it as get stronger, get bigger phase,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after G-Day. “Like we have to get better. We’ve got to physically get better, so we’ve got to lift in May, we’ve got to work out in May. We’ve got to get some guys academically in a good place.”

Non-graduates had until May 1 to enter the transfer portal if they were to take advantage of the one-time transfer exemption. In all, Georgia had 12 scholarship players enter the transfer portal since the end of the season.

To this point what is most telling with Georgia though is that it has not yet taken in any transfers. Even with power programs like Alabama, Ohio State and USC taking in multiple transfers this offseason, Georgia is much closer to Clemson this offseason in terms of transfer philosophy.

Smart prefers to focus on his own players, who have been recruited from the high school ranks.

“The guys who want to be here, we’re going to coach them. The guys that don’t, then we’re not going to chase after them,” Smart said. “We can’t. That’s their determination. We’re trying to create a culture of I want to be here and grow and get better. Like you come to Georgia, you get developed.”

That is what makes these summer months so crucial to how Georgia builds its program. While Georgia isn’t averse to taking a player from the transfer portal — the Bulldogs pulled in Derion Kendrick, Arik Gilbert and Tykee Smith last year and would consider adding a safety or wide receiver this time around — the Bulldogs are much more concerned about developing the next Walker.

Consider that Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, didn’t start a game until his junior season. But because of his work on him in the strength and conditioning program, he was ready to go as an impact player at the start of the 2021 season.

Georgia is looking for defensive tackle Jalen Carter to do something similar this season. Despite all the hype around the monster defensive tackle, this will be the first season where he is a regular starter for Georgia.

“If I’m not the guy, at least I’m developing to be the guy,” Smart said. We’ve got a lot, a lot of examples of guys that stuck around and became really good players, and Channing Tindall is a great example of that. That’s really my focus.”

Related: Kirby Smart wants Jalen Carter to follow example set by Devonte Wyatt

Smart will be eager to see how players such as Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Broderick Jones and Zion Logue all make steps forward this offseason. Dumas-Johnson will be tasked with replacing Walker, along with Tindall and Nakobe Dean.

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