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Florida players have Georgia on the verge of a national title. Again.

12 Florida natives defected to Georgia, including one of the stars of the semifinal. Why?
Polk County native Arian Smith scored a pivotal touchdown for Georgia in the Bulldogs' semifinal win over Ohio State.
Polk County native Arian Smith scored a pivotal touchdown for Georgia in the Bulldogs' semifinal win over Ohio State. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published Jan. 4|Updated Jan. 4

If No. 1 Georgia beats No. 3 TCU in Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship, Arian Smith will go down in Bulldogs lore for coming off the bench to score his first touchdown of the season — a 76 yarder that sparked Saturday’s comeback win over Ohio State.

Here in Florida, he’ll be remembered differently. As another one that got away.

Related: Inside the collapse of Florida college football’s Big Three

Smith is from the Polk County town of Bradley. He played 7-on-7 for Team Tampa and finished his prep career at Lakeland High. That makes him one of a dozen Bulldogs who defected from Florida to Georgia. Five others participated in Saturday’s Peach Bowl semifinal, including starting receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (Pompano Beach), leading rusher Kenny McIntosh (Fort Lauderdale) and elite NFL draft prospect Jalen Carter (Apopka).

The trend isn’t slowing down. In the 2023 recruiting class, Georgia signed five native Floridians who were ranked among the nation’s top 100 prospects. The Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes combined to sign four (excluding five-star cornerback Cormani McClain, a Miami commit who remains unsigned).

Related: 6 takeaways from early signing day with Florida Gators, USF, FSU and Miami

Here’s a look at some of the state’s notable misses on Georgia’s roster (with all recruiting rankings from the 247Sports Composite):

Running back Kenny McIntosh

Running back Kenny McIntosh is the Bulldogs' leading rusher and No. 3 receiver.
Running back Kenny McIntosh is the Bulldogs' leading rusher and No. 3 receiver. [ JASON GETZ / JASON.GETZ | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ]

Four-star recruit (No. 187 overall)

Fort Lauderdale University School

Path to Georgia: The Hurricanes offered McIntosh a scholarship as an eighth grader, the same week they also offered another south Florida running back, James Cook (who later signed with, you guessed it, Georgia). It made sense; McIntosh’s older brother, RJ, was a Miami defensive lineman at the time. McIntosh took at least nine unofficial visits to Miami, according to 247Sports, and made trips to Florida and FSU, too. But he chose Georgia in part because of the Hurricanes’ “lack of offensive production,” his father told the Miami Herald.

At Georgia: Leads the Bulldogs in rushing (779 yards, 10 touchdowns) and is third in receiving (42 catches, 505 yards). Also threw a touchdown pass in last season’s Orange Bowl semifinal against Michigan.

Related: What does it take to recruit like Alabama and Georgia? ‘Total commitment.’

Defensive lineman Jalen Carter

Georgia's Jalen Carter has terrorized opposing quarterbacks, including the Gators' Anthony Richardson, over the past two seasons.
Georgia's Jalen Carter has terrorized opposing quarterbacks, including the Gators' Anthony Richardson, over the past two seasons. [ PHELAN M. EBENHACK | AP (2021) ]

Five-star recruit (No. 18 overall)

Apopka High

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Path to Georgia: Florida, FSU, Miami, USF and UCF were among the many offers he received. Carter made an unofficial visit to Florida and attended junior days at FSU and Miami, but he didn’t appear to consider any of them seriously. His final three schools were Clemson, Alabama and Georgia.

At Georgia: Was a first-team All-American and finalist for the Lombardi Award (nation’s top lineman) this season after being a second-team all-SEC pick in 2021. Considered among the top five prospects in the 2023 draft.

Tight end Brett Seither

Clearwater Central Catholic tight end Brett Seither signed with Georgia over Alabama.
Clearwater Central Catholic tight end Brett Seither signed with Georgia over Alabama. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2019) ]

Three-star recruit (No. 733 overall)

Clearwater Central Catholic

Path to Georgia: Seither received offers from USF and UCF and got a late push from Miami, but he focused his attention elsewhere. He took official visits to TCU and Georgia Tech before finally choosing the Bulldogs over Alabama on the February signing day. “It really came down to what is best for me,” he said then. “Where the school was didn’t matter.”

Related: CCC’s Brett Seither picks Georgia over Alabama

At Georgia: Has appeared in 21 games (including the Peach Bowl) as a backup over the past two seasons.

Receiver Arian Smith

Georgia receiver Arian Smith was one of the Bulldogs' most important players in the semifinal.
Georgia receiver Arian Smith was one of the Bulldogs' most important players in the semifinal. [ DANNY KARNIK | AP ]

Four-star recruit (No. 58 overall)

Lakeland High

Path to Georgia: The Gators and Seminoles were among Smith’s list of eight main contenders, but only Georgia and Alabama made his final two. He announced his commitment to the Bulldogs on ESPN2 on the 2019 early signing day, citing how the Bulldogs used another speedy receiver (Pro Bowler Mecole Hardman) and his comfort with the coaching staff.

At Georgia: Limited by injuries for most of his first three seasons but scored on four of his 11 career catches — including the game changer against Ohio State. Also had two other receptions against the Buckeyes to finish with a game-high 129 yards.

Linebacker Marvin Jones Jr.

Georgia beat Florida State and others to land Marvin Jones Jr., a Seminoles legacy.
Georgia beat Florida State and others to land Marvin Jones Jr., a Seminoles legacy. [ HYOSUB SHIN / AJC | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ]

Five-star recruit (No. 24 overall)

Plantation American Heritage

Path to Georgia: The son of FSU legend Marvin Jones officially visited Tallahassee a month before the 2019 early signing day and had FSU in his final three (along with Georgia and Alabama). But he said he knew during a visit to Georgia — which included coach Kirby Smart signing karaoke — that the Bulldogs would be his home, regardless of where his family’s legacy. “At the end of the day, it’s my decision,” he said during his nationally televised announcement, “so I have to live with it. And I will.”

At Georgia: Has appeared in all but two games as a true freshman this season and recorded his third career quarterback hurry against the Buckeyes.

Other notables

Backup quarterback Carson Beck (Jacksonville Mandarin High): The No. 250 overall recruit was once committed to play baseball at Florida before flipping to Alabama and, eventually, football at Georgia.

Starting receiver Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas): No. 55 overall prospect made several trips to Miami’s campus and took his official visit to UF a week before choosing the Bulldogs.

Freshman receiver C.J. Smith (Mount Dora High): No. 231 overall recruit committed to Dan Mullen’s Gators but decided it would “be in my best interest to shy away from my childhood dream” by decommitting soon after Billy Napier was hired.

Freshman defensive back Jaheim Singletary (Jacksonville Riverside High): No. 27 overall recruit said the Gators were the favorite early in his recruiting process. Florida and Miami both made his final eight.

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