Arian Smith making a noticeable impact for Georgia football, just not yet at wide receiver

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Arian Smith played very well on special teams in Georgia's 10-3 win at the Duke's Mayo Classic at Bank of American Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Sept. 4, 2021.

Redshirt freshman Arian Smith had just one catch for six yards in Georgia’s win over Clemson.

Yet Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has repeatedly praised Smith for his performance.

“Arian Smith was dominant the other night and made some good plays,” Smart said.

That dominance showed up on special teams. Smith works as one of Georgia’s gunners on the punt team, where he is tasked with chasing down Jake Camarada’s punts in an effort to pin the opposing team deep in its own territory.

Smith did this to perfection on each of Georgia’s first two punts on Saturday. Both times, Clemson returner Will Taylor elected to not field a punt from Camarda in hopes of a touchback.

Those hopes were dashed both times by Smith. He raced down and located the bouncing ball, pinning Clemson on its own 10-yard line on the first punt and on its own 2-yard line on the second.

“Arian is, to say the least, a pretty fast guy. He flys out there,” Camarda said. “Arian’s a great player and I look forward to seeing what this guy can do the rest of the year.”

Smith contributing on the Georgia punt team is a positive development for the redshirt freshman. His speed — he was an All-American on Georgia’s track team this spring — is clearly an asset for Georgia in that regard.

The big question with Smith though is when does that speed show up on the Georgia offense?

The Bulldogs have had to battle a number of injuries on that front, and they are still hoping to get back the likes of Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock.

Related: Georgia WR George Pickens ‘return is on the way,’ Kirby Smart provides update on receivers

Smith might be in his second year in the program, which only raises expectations for him. But he had a slower start to fall camp due to transitioning from the track team.

And, as Smart pointed, Saturday was just the fifth game of Smith’s collegiate career.

“You guys probably think of Arian has an experienced vet,” Smart said. “Well, I look at him as really a freshman, because this time last year he was in rehab.”

Smith didn’t make his debut until the Mississippi State game. The reception he had against Clemson was just the third in his Georgia career.

Like Burton and the rest of Georgia’s young skill players, Smith needs more reps so he can learn from the mistakes he is going to make.

“It happens once, nervous energy, different things, you miss things, you know these guys are going to grow and get better and we’re going to develop from it, but my expectation is they do it from day one all the way through,” Smart said.

Georgia hopes to use Smith’s speed beyond just special teams. And there’s an expectation from many that Smith will take on a big role in the Georgia offense, due to his speed and lofty recruiting rankings.

But the fact that he’s carved out a key role on Georgia’s special teams should be a positive indicator of what his potential might be as a piece on the Georgia offense.

It just may take the speedy wide receiver a little longer to get there.

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