ORLANDO, Fla. — Arian Smith watched the SEC championship game. Saw what did happen. And also what did not. The Bulldogs did not have enough playmakers.
Kirby Smart and the Georgia football program suffered its least competitive defeat since his first season in 2016.
LSU was better. Clearly. The Tigers had more weapons on offense. No question about that.
Smith was watching. He saw a need. Clearly.
That was the point when a recruiting race that had been leaning heavily toward the Bulldogs reached its finish line. That’s a quick first thing to know here about Smith and races.
He takes those in the fast lane. With anything in this young man’s life, he couldn’t wait to be a part of changing those gaps for the better at the University of Georgia.
He called up Smart on the Sunday after the game. That very morning. With news to share. Smart didn’t even know he was calling to commit.
Smart was in the office. Going over the film. They talked for like 20 minutes before they told him.
“He was ecstatic,” Smith said. “He was so surprised.”
It sent the head coach of the Bulldogs into a stupor. Smith heard him yell and even say “God bless” on that call.
“He almost fell out of his chair,” he said. “It was a good moment.”
There’s a level of irony there that’s hard not to ignore. The day after one of Smart’s toughest defeats as the Georgia coach, a call comes.
Smith brought him some news that could begin to rectify that. Fast.
That LSU loss was the moment he knew he was going to be a Bulldog. He saw the receivers dropping. And the dropped passes, too.
“At that moment in time, I just felt like it would have been the perfect decision,” he said. “And it was. That’s when I silently committed. Right after the SEC championship.”
Clemson had gotten a commit and then backed off. Oklahoma did as well, then tried to come back in.
“I just shut them out,” he said. “If you are going to cut me off, cut me off. Don’t try to come back in.”
If his process was a relay race, then Georgia never dropped the baton here. Others clearly did.
Georgia signee Arian Smith has been clocked as low as 10.29 seconds in the 100 meters in high school. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
The quick hit things to know about Arian Smith
In the style of the speedster, let’s cover a lot of ground quickly here.
- The 6-foot-1, 170-pound signee will compete in track and football at Georgia. That was the plan laid out to him by area recruiter Scott Fountain and head coach Kirby Smart. He aims to have a great SEC track experience, too.
- It means he will not be with the team full-time, if even at all, during spring practices.
- Smith cannot enroll early. He could have, but he has spring track season on his mind. That’s when he thinks he can time in the 10.10-10.20 second range in the 100 meters.
- His status as a top 100 overall recruit and the nation’s No. 14 WR for 200 is unique in its own right. Smart and Georgia didn’t sign any elite top 100 overall players at wide receiver during his first three recruiting classes. Georgia signed two of those in 2019 (Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens) and then three more just like that (Marcus Rosemy, Jermaine Burton and Smith) with its 2020 class.
- Georgia freshman Matthew Boling recorded the fastest all-conditions time ever for a high school sprinter in the spring of 2019. He had a 9.98, but Smith said he was only a slight factor in his recruiting.
- The most interesting Boling-Smith topic came when he discussed a previous match race. He lost, he said, by about three feet. “It was close. It gave him his best race he ever had.”
- Smith won the “Fastest Man” competition at the Under Armour All-American Game practices this week. The two embedded videos below chronicle his “Media Day” interview and his finals race to win that sprint title.
- Georgia was one of the earliest schools to recruit him, but then other schools jumped in to recruit him and were ahead in his mind for a time. The Bulldogs rallied to get this one after Clemson and Oklahoma dropped off. He initially thought he wanted to go to Florida or Florida State.
- The Bulldogs took the lead after the summer cookout visit. That was the one with the slip-n-slide.
- Smith was told the Bulldogs are going to keep running the ball but will try to spread things out more on offense in 2020.
- The player-to-coach relationship was the single biggest factor here. “Coach Smart really showed me loyalty. How much he wanted me. It wasn’t just ‘Oh, I want Arian because he is a good player’ but it was “I want Arian because I trust him. I want him as a character. I want him as a person and who he is.'”
- He feels that he is better as a track athlete right now than football. That’s where he has put the work in. He said he actually ran a 10.29 in the 100 back in 2019.
- Get drafted in the first round? Or win a gold medal for America as a springer? He said his preference would be as an NFL first-rounder.
- Smith plans to major in Engineering, describes himself and as an “As and Bs” student and cited a scored of 23 on his ACT.
Arian Smith: How he (quickly) speeds up the UGA offense
The nation’s No. 72 overall prospect (247Sports Composite rankings) can pay an immediate return on special teams as a punt or kick returner. Or even serve as an eraser at gunner on the punt coverage team.
That will be beneficial when facing a lightning-in-a-bottle speedster (hello: Jaylin Waddle) like the Bulldogs will see to open the SEC slate in Tuscaloosa next season.
At a minimum, the 4-star signee from Florida will be the fastest player on the field (track times) in every game he plays next season for Georgia except the Auburn game.
That’s when Smith and his best times so far (10.30 seconds in the 100) do not currently match the 10.07 seconds that Auburn’s Anthony Schwartz posted while he was still in high school.
There’s a unique personal story to share here about Smith. Not just how well he can play football or run a 100-meter race.
He saw a close friend and former teammate pass away during high school. It was a tragic car accident. He even honored the memory of that life gone too soon with a #WLGS hashtag.
This will sound very hard to believe, but that friend was a Georgia Bulldog fan. And a bit of a prophet when it came to Smith’s future collegiate career.
“It impacted me a lot,” he said. “Because he was really a factor [in his recruiting] because he once told me when I was younger that I was going to Georgia if I had the offer. He always wanted me to go to Georgia as I was coming up as a kid.”
Smith was always the fastest kid around growing up.
“Then he passed away, and I kept running for him,” Smith said. “I had two friends that passed away in the accident right down the road from my house. So every day, I go to the same light. Every day, if I leave my house, I go to the same light and see it every day.”
Their names were Kenneth Haney and Chad Hall. Haney was the Georgia fan. He passed away on December 16, 2018.
“Kenneth always told me [about Georgia] and he actually stole one of my Georgia shirts,” Smith said. “Right after he passed away I went to go get it back. I had to go get it back.”
4-star WR Arian Smith won the “Fastest Man” challenge at the Under Armour All-American Game practices this week. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Arian Smith: The novel way Georgia recruited him
Some schools try to recruit players by telling them to watch what they do on the field each fall. Watch what we do. Watch that guy.
That’s how you will fit into the scheme.
Georgia told him to do the opposite. Don’t watch us in 2019. That was the message they started telling him over the summer.
That’s because the Bulldogs didn’t have a receiver who could stretch and scare a defense as he can. Well, they did. Up until the point that Mecole Hardman chose to take his talents to the NFL.
So when the Georgia offense sputtered to beat contested coverage or to scare teams deep, it was actually a reinforcement of what they needed to add to the team by signing Smith. Not a limiting factor.
Hardman’s name was brought up often in this recruitment.
“Just that they needed a fast guy,” Smith told DawgNation. “I’d seen the previous year, they had more success last year than this year. They were missing Mecole Hardman. I figured I can take his spot and turn the offense around.”
At first, Smith wasn’t bought into that.
“It wasn’t big because at first, I was like ‘Aw, I don’t want to be like nobody, and I want my own legacy. To start my own, but then I’m like thinking it just fell in place like to Georgia. At first, I gave Clemson a chance. I gave Oklahoma a chance. Some of those schools cut me off. Georgia was still there. Still right there. Showing loyalty. Nothing changed.”
Playing right away was a major factor. Smart told him that he could play inside or outside at receiver and on the punt and kick return teams.
“I think I am going there to give them a push,” Smith said. “Give them that push over the hump. It is like almost every year they are almost at that national.”
DawgNation: All-American game coverage