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Florida lands Georgia transfer defender Brenton Cox

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A Dawg turned Gator? We’ll take it.

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia Bulldogs suffered a substantial loss earlier this week, when former five-star edge player Brenton Cox placed himself in the transfer portal.

That loss became the Florida Gators’ gain on Friday, as 247Sports first reported that Cox has chosen to transfer to Florida, enrolling at the school and planning to practice on Friday. Florida’s own Scott Carter confirmed the news soon after.

The move comes as a bit of a surprise, both for its unusual trajectory — Cox will be the first player to transfer directly from Georgia to Florida in recent memory, though offensive lineman Trenton Brown came close to being a Georgia signee before embarking on a JUCO journey that landed him in Gainesville — and its rapidity. Cox entering the transfer portal and exiting it in the same week is close to a speed record for a prospect of his caliber; consider that former LSU defensive back Kelvin Joseph, who is also seriously considering Florida, has been in and out of the transfer portal during a saga lasting more than a month, and that there is no definitive timetable for his decision.

But Cox is also rare in the sense that five-star transfers are few and far between — and five-star transfers with extensive playing time at their first stop rarer still. Cox earned that playing time by making good on the talent that made him the nation’s No. 23 recruit in the 2018 class and playing well as a true freshman outside linebacker in 2018, racking up 20 tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack while wearing the No. 1 jersey for the Bulldogs. He also played in 13 of Georgia’s 14 games, and starred in the Bulldogs’ Sugar Bowl loss to Texas, in which he had six tackles and half of a tackle for loss.

So why was Cox suddenly looking for a new home in the August before his sophomore season? Well, for some of the same reasons that make taking him as a transfer a risk.

Cox was one of two Georgia players arrested for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in April, and the details of that arrest — hilariously, Cox and fellow linebacker Robert Beal lived in Room 420 of a Georgia dorm; the arrest only happened a day after the pair complained about their toilet being clogged; the paraphernalia found was adorably weed-centric — made Cox a minor figure in the college football Internet.

And this week’s transfer portal entry came on the heels of a report that Cox was dismissed from the Georgia program.

Was Cox’s handling of the marijuana that got him arrested undeniably stupid? Yes. Could the arrest have led to a suspension, or a spot in Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s doghouse, that Cox didn’t want to endure? Also possible. Is Cox beating feet rather than sticking it out at Georgia a sign that he could do the same at Florida? Sure.

Florida is clearly taking a risk on a player who has made a significant error in judgment and who has skipped out on a team at an inopportune time by bringing in Cox.

But it’s also true that Cox has now made a mistake and a departure in the past tense, and has as much chance as any person at learning from them. If Dan Mullen can help him see why keeping marijuana in bags in your dorm room (and/or smoking enough to leave the odor present) while asking for your toilet to be fixed is idiotic, and provide an atmosphere that Cox can thrive in, maybe his work as a football player can be done without other incident.

And Cox’s work on the field seemed pretty damn good in Athens — so one wonders whether he might be even better as an unleashed part of Todd Grantham’s defensive scheme in Gainesville.

Cox should have three years of eligibility remaining beginning next fall, though it is possible that he could receive an NCAA waiver granting immediate eligibility if there are circumstances of his transfer currently unknown to the public. It seems unlikely that family hardship spurring a transfer closer to home would be one of them, though, as Cox hails from Stockbridge, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb which is only about an hour and a half from Athens.