One of the things that Georgia’s defense can improve on in 2020 is creating more negative plays, and sophomore outside linebacker Nolan Smith is aware. To be specific, getting in the backfield after the quarterback and creating more tackles for loss is what the unit needs to focus on.
Smith acknowledged the problem when he met with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday and admitted that the coaching staff has been relentless about improving on those things all offseason long.
“Like they say we’re gonna cause a lot of havoc,” Smith said.
Smith can easily help create more havoc in the backfield, which is something that he intends to do.
He showed a lot of potential as a freshman as he finished the season with 2.5 sacks and 19 quarterback pressures. Last year, Smith was a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators because of his ability to quickly get after the quarterback.
Smith’s ability to easily get into the backfield was something that looked natural for him. Although, he explained that he was just getting used to the college level, and that his game will be elevated this year. Smith said he now fully understands the playbook, and is ready to see how his offseason training and focus in the film room will pay off.
“I learned the playbook very well and I try to come in and meet everyday extra,” Smith said. “This is my second year, so I’m trying to come in, meet extra, meet with the GA’s and see what installs we’ve got into our meetings. So just meeting before the meeting and just carrying it onto the field in practice.”
It seems like his heart is always in the right place, and head coach Kirby Smart noticed his willingness to learn last season.
“Nolan is smart, Nolan listens, so when you give Nolan a plan and say, ‘This is the way I want you to rush on this defense,’ or, ‘This is the way I want you to rush on this particular tackle,’ he does it,” Smart said. “He applies what he learns. He plays with maximum effort. He’s like a wild man, hair on fire.”
The Savannah, Ga. native explained that he’s been learning and training with some former Bulldogs’ outside linebackers who are both now in the NFL.
Former standouts Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy have been helping Smith improve his skill set when they can in the offseason. Both former players seem to be huge influences in Smith’s life, as he will one day more than likely follow in their footsteps and play in the NFL.
“I try to work out with those guys when they come to Atlanta,” Smith said. “We call ourselves ‘The Wolfpack,’ the outside linebackers. We are a close-knit group with the alumni. We work out with them all the time. They teach me things they learn from the league that I can apply to myself and my playing days at Georgia.”
Carter is currently playing for the New York Giants and Bellamy is an active member of the Houston Texans’ practice squad.
“Zo [Carter] and Davin are a package deal,” Smith said. “Anytime I know Zo texts me, he’s texting me with Bellamy. It’s always a great time seeing those guys. After the workout we sit down, eat, and talk. It’s a really good time.”
Georgia’s defense has so much depth this year that it’s not guaranteed that Smith will start this year, but he could relinquish an important role as a situational player.
“..We have depth this year. I can say that,” said junior nose tackle Jordan Davis. “We have a lot of depth. A lot of young players are coming up and filling roles. We have to keep that next man up mentality..We are in too deep.”
Nevertheless, Smith seems humble about the opportunity he’s received to play at UGA.
“Hopefully, I can play a bigger role this year to come,” Smith said. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”