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Georgia’s Most Important Players: No. 16 Nolan Smith

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Kickoff to the 2021 College Football season is in sight with Georgia set to square off against Clemson in a battle of two highly-ranked teams. Hopes are high for the Bulldogs this season as Kirby Smart and company return one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, weapons around him on offense and a veteran group of defenders. With so many contributors expected to play a part, Dawgs247 has taken on the challenge of ranking Georgia’s most important players for the upcoming season. We continue today with Nolan Smith at No. 16.

Nolan Smith (Junior OLB)
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 235 pounds
Hometown: Savannah, Ga.
High School: IMG Academy

247Sports Composite Ranking: Five-star (2019)
No. 1 nationally
No. 1 weak-side defensive end
No. 1 in the state of Florida

2021 Outlook

Expectations were high for Smith when he came to Georgia in 2019, and rightfully so as the No. 1 ranked player in the country per the industry-generated 247Sports Composite. While the Bulldogs have had tons of talent stacked on top of each other in the outside linebacker’s room making it difficult for an individual to stand out from the pack during Smith’s first two seasons, that is no longer the case, and the Savannah, Ga. native should have plenty of opportunities to live up to his recruiting ranking.

Smith has played in all 24 games for Georgia since his arrival on campus in 2019. A co-winner of the Defensive Newcomer of the Year award as a freshman, Smith finished with 18 stops, including 2.5 sacks, as a freshman. He added 15 quarterback pressures, fourth-best on the team. His numbers went up slightly as a sophomore, and in fewer games. In the 10-game COVID-19 shortened season, Smith made 22 tackles and recorded 20 quarterback pressures. He once again had 2.5 sacks. In Georgia’s season-opening win at Arkansas, Smith came up with a career-high six tackles, including 1.5 stops for 14 lost yards.

“Nolan is fun to coach. He is full of spirit. He has never had a bad day,” Kirby Smart said of Smith last season. “He is fired up out there on the practice field. He is one of those guys you just like to coach. He texted me the other night and said, ‘Can I go to the scout team? I am not getting enough reps. I am having to rotate among three guys. I want more reps. Can I go get more reps on scout team?’ That is just the kind of kid he is.”

While none of his numbers are all too eye popping so far, Smith has been playing largely in the shadow of Azeez Ojulari. With Ojulari’s SEC-best 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks gone to the NFL, Smith should have an opportunity to step up. Georgia also loses former top-ranked JUCO prospect Jermaine Johnson after he transferred to Florida State. Given the opportunity in his third season, Smith has the talent that can replace the lost production and live up to some of the expectations that were placed upon him early in his Georgia career.


Previous Players

No. 25 Channing Tindall

No. 24 Darnell Washington

No. 23 Kendall Milton

No. 22 Quay Walker

No. 21 Justin Shaffer

No. 20 Kelee Ringo

No. 19 Xavier Truss

No. 18 Jalen Carter

No. 17 Warren McClendon


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