Nolan Smith returning for senior campaign
Georgia junior outside linebacker Nolan Smith announced Monday via his Instagram account that he is returning for his senior season.
Smith described the 2021 national championship season as a “ride.”
"I feel I've grown tremendously during my time at Georgia thus far, as both a football player and as a man,” Smith stated. “I can't express what it meant to me to bring a national championship home to Georgia. After careful consideration, I have decided to return to Georgia for my senior season and continue with what we have been building. Let's run this thing back! Go Dawgs!"
Smith was a part of Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class. He was the nation’s top overall prospect, No. 1-ranked weakside defensive end and the state of Florida’s No. 1-rated recruit.
Originally from Savannah, Ga., Smith wanted to bring the University of Georgia a national championship after its 41-year drought. Before the rematch with Alabama last week, he was very outspoken about what it would mean to his teammates, coaches and himself.
“You’ll be a Georgia legend no matter if you’re from inside the state of Georgia or outside of Georgia, you’re going to be a Georgia legend,” Smith said. “We came in to be legendary, be special, leave your mark. As I said, I want to bring my kid back and tell him this is what I did. I want to leave my mark. I don’t just want to be another University of Georgia player.”
Smith had a “legendary” type season in 2021. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound edge defender was a key part of the nation’s top defensive unit.
Smith racked up 56 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks. He also accumulated three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and a team's fourth-best 27 quarterback pressures. Smith was named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week twice during his junior campaign.
Georgia’s defense will look a lot different next season with the departures of Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Channing Tindall, Nakobe Dean, Travon Walker, Lewis Cine, and Derion Kendrick. Regardless, Smith now returns, alongside Jalen Carter, William Poole, Tykee Smith, Dan Jackson, Kelee Ringo, Chris Smith and a few others.
Smith said before the national title game that he understands why some of his teammates might leave for the NFL, transfer out due to playing time, or accept a NIL deal elsewhere.
“I understand guys leaving programs to go do bigger and better things and more playing time, but crazy now that guys are considering leaving programs just because the NIL deals,” Smith said. “And that's just not about football. Football is a team sport. And I say it all the time it's the ultimate team sport, you've just got to sacrifice a lot.
Smith is going to be Georgia’s leader on defense heading into the 2022 season.
“I’m a Georgia boy,” he stated before the rematch against Alabama. “I love the University of Georgia.”
Smith’s accolades in 2021:
* 8 tackles vs. South Carolina & Michigan, 2021
* 1.5 QB Sacks vs. Arkansas 2021
* 2.0 Tackles for Loss vs. Alabama, 2022
* 7 QB Pressures vs. Michigan, 2021
* 1 INT vs. Florida, 2021
* 1 forced fumble vs. South Carolina, Florida, 2021
* 1 recovered fumble vs. Florida, 2021
— Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications