On November 30, Georgia Tech sophomore B-back Marcus Marshall announced his intent to transfer, eventually landing on James Madison to continue his academic and athletic careers. In the time since, four more Georgia Tech players have announced their intent to transfer.
To many, that looks awfully bad. Five players leaving the program in a little over a month would typically suggest some sort of issue that players have with their coaches, or a coach leaving, or some sense of unrest within the program.
That’s not the case for Georgia Tech here.
Marcus Marshall’s transfer is tough for anyone outside of his family and the coaching staff to explain, but he’s transferring closer to home, and to his father’s alma mater. The other four transfers? It makes a lot more sense and is much easier to explain.
CB Dorian Walker
Just completed his redshirt freshman season as the #4 CB on the depth chart. Played sparingly in all of the team’s regular season games, recording 3 tackles all season. Made an interception against Vanderbilt.
Players ahead of him on the depth chart entering his sophomore season include rising senior Step Durham, rising senior Lance Austin, and rising junior Lamont Simmons. In other words, he was due to again spend a majority of 2017 on the bench and on special teams before having a shot at starting as a junior in 2018 — and that’s assuming he could beat out incoming recruits such as Tre’ Swilling and Jaytlin Askew.
LB Emanuel Bridges
Just completed his freshman season, having redshirted after enrolling in January 2016.
Players ahead of him on the depth chart entering his freshman season of 2017 included rising junior Brant Mitchell, rising junior Vic Alexander, rising senior Terrell Lewis, rising junior Tre Jackson, and rising sophomore David Curry. As Georgia Tech continues to play in many 2-linebacker sets, there’s a decent chance Bridges wouldn’t have seen much of the field in 2017 and may not have had much opportunity to start until 2019.
WR Christian Philpott
Just completed his redshirt freshman season, outside of the two-deep at wide receiver. He recorded a catch for 9 yards against Vanderbilt, and only played in two other games without recording any statistics.
Players ahead of him on the depth chart entering his sophomore season included rising senior Ricky Jeune, rising junior Brad Stewart, rising junior Mikell Lands-Davis, rising true sophomore Jalen Camp, and rising senior Antonio Messick. Rising sophomore Harland Howell also played in more games in 2016 than Philpott did, and both Steve Dolphus and Jair Hawkins-Anderson will be eligible to play as freshmen in 2017 after redshirting in 2016. It’s unlikely he ever would have started at Georgia Tech, and it was probably unlikely that he would have played a significant amount over his final three seasons.
SDE/DT Trent Sellers
Just completed his redshirt freshman season, outside of the two-deep at both SDE and DT. His only game action was in a blowout win against Vanderbilt, and he didn’t record any tackles or other statistics.
There are no less than three players that would have likely been in front of Sellers on the depth chart entering his sophomore season of 2017 at either position, including senior Antonio Simmons, junior Tyler Merriweather, senior Desmond Branch, junior Kyle Cerge-Henderson, sophomore Brentavious Glanton, and potentially redshirt freshman Chris Martin. It’s unlikely he ever would have started at Georgia Tech.
Marcus Marshall set to finish 2016 as the team’s leading rusher for the second year in a row. That hurts.
The other four who have transferred have combined for almost no playing time, without much of a real chance of that changing in the foreseeable future. That hurts considerably less.
That so many players have transferred recently is not indicative of turmoil within the program, coaches with one foot out the door, or coaches having poor relationships with their players. It’s indicative of a relatively young team that has found several playmakers among the 45 players it’s signed in the past two recruiting classes, lacking a wealth of new playing opportunities that figure to come available in the near future. Part of the reason that Walker, Bridges, Philpott, and Sellers came to Georgia Tech in the first place was to have the opportunity to play football for the Yellow Jackets, and those opportunities figured to be limited in varying degrees over the next couple of years (after being limited or nonexistent in 2016).
On one level, it looks bad when several players voluntarily leave a program. On another, it looks far worse than it actually is — their departures will hardly affect the team over the next few seasons anyways.