The amount of change possible over a three-year period in college football is truly remarkable.
Midway through the 2017 season, Georgia had sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason, freshman Jake Fromm and an incoming 5-star recruit in Justin Fields. Although it would be difficult to keep all of that talent, surely the Bulldogs could figure out a transition plan, right?
Within 15 months, however, both Eason and Fields had transferred. And after the 2019 season, Fromm declared for the NFL draft. His departure left a once-loaded position with enough concern that head coach Kirby Smart pursued grad transfer Jamie Newman.
Since Newman has only one remaining year of eligibility, though, he'll be a temporary solution. Georgia still needed to bolster its long-term depth.
After receiving a verbal pledge from 5-star Brock Vandagriff on Tuesday, the SEC power has made enormous progress in that never-ending task.
Currently rated the No. 8 overall player in the 2021 class, Vandagriff is considered the top quarterback prospect. Last season, he posted a 71.6 completion percentage with 2,471 yards and 31 touchdowns to only three interceptions, per MaxPreps.
He had previously been attached to Oklahoma, but he told Rusty Mansell of 247Sports that he backed off the commitment because of the distance.
"To walk away from Lincoln Riley and Oklahoma was not an easy thing to do. We were sitting around the dinner table and my grandmother made the comment about how far Oklahoma was, and it kind of went from there. It was funny she said that because it had been on my mind privately. The next day, we had a family conversation."
As always with recruiting, nothing is official until the paperwork is submitted. At the earliest, that cannot happen until the early signing period in December.
But if Vandagriff remains committed to Georgia, the program's future is more secure.
Behind Newman, UGA has 2019 4-star D'Wan Mathis and 2020 4-star Carson Beck in the QB room. However, Mathis missed last season after undergoing brain surgery to remove a cyst, and Beck just arrived on campus. Stetson Bennett served as the backup quarterback in 2019 and has two years of eligibility left.
Given the blue-chip talent in Mathis and Beck, the odds of that group producing a high-end starter are decent. (Granted, a brain surgery throws an unusual twist in the discussion.) Still, adding Vandagriff to the QB room improves those chances considerably.
Within the sport's toughest conference, a great quarterback is an absolute must. No team will navigate the SEC without one.
Plus, no program offers a better cautionary tale than Georgia: Keep adding talent at the position, because transfers will happen.
Max Olson of The Athletic looked back at the top 50 quarterbacks in each of the 2014-17 classes. Among those 200 prospects, 120 had left their initial school as of mid-January. That's 60 percent—nearly two out of every three players.
Eason, Fromm, Fields; two transferred.
We cannot predict what the future holds for Mathis, Beck or Vandagriff. Perhaps they'll be exceptions to the rule, but the numbers—a clear trend—suggest otherwise.
The likelihood of a transfer isn't necessarily a problem. Georgia just finished a three-year stretch with a 36-7 record, winning three division crowns and an SEC title with an appearance in the national championship.
The difficulty, as UGA is experiencing, is being ready for the next transition.
Like Mathis and Beck, Vandagriff has proven nothing. If Newman starts in 2020 as expected, that won't change before his arrival, either. The 4- or 5-star billing that follows the trio no longer matters once they enter a college game.
But after Vandagriff's commitment, Georgia should feel confident in having a long-term answer ready for 2021 and beyond.