Back Smith’s Return Key for UGA Defense

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Smith’s Return Key for UGA Defense

By BJ Bennett
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Smith's production and perspective just set the tone as Georgia made history. He is ready for more.

With 4.5 tackles for loss over his last four games and a sack in both College Football Playoff pairings, Nolan Smith finished the season as one of the nation's best players. That momentum will carry him over into what should be a banner senior season. After helping pace Georgia to a national championship, the Bulldogs' first since 1981, Smith will return as a top name in college football and defining team leader. His production and perspective just set the tone as Georgia made history. Smith is ready for more.

Smith, a former number one overall prep recruit out of Savannah, was a featured defensive playmaker for the Bulldogs during their famed title run, finishing second on the team with nine tackles for loss and second in the SEC with three forced fumbles. He, furthermore, compiled 27 quarterback pressures. Notably, Smith's contributions were critical to a Georgia unit that led the country in both scoring and redzone defense, ranked second in total defense, second in rush defense, fourth in sacks and tenth in tackles for loss.

There were a number of signature moments for Smith this season, all wins for the Bulldogs.

Smith had a key sacks in the high-profile opener with Clemson. He then set a new career-high with eight tackles, adding 1.5 TFLs, contributing to a sack which resulted in a safety, and a forced fumble, versus South Carolina. There was the Florida game, which came with an interception, a forced fumble and a recovery. Smith blocked a punt against Missouri. His Orange Bowl came with eight total tackles, a sack and a career-high seven quarterback pressures. In the national championship, Smith added two more TFLs and another sack.

At 6'3'', 235 pounds with great athleticism and instincts, few players in college football have the draft profile of a player like Smith. Turning down the pros for one more year, he has the chance to further elevate his stock ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft. Expect Smith to be one of the top defenders on the board next spring. 

With Smith back, among other proven players, Georgia will have one of the nation's top defenses yet again. A group that was just one of college football's greatest in a generation returns one of its most important players.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports