Georgia coach Kirby Smart commented this week that two newcomers to the UGA program — linebackers Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson — are turning heads during spring practice, occasionally showing off what Smart described as “Superman plays.” Smith’s quick emergence with the Bulldogs probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans.
That’s the subject of today’s DN90.
What Smith is apparently shown off in his first few college spring practices is similar to what he predicted he’d do in college when he spoke to DawgNation at the end of his high school career. However, that shouldn’t be taken to suggest Smith was boastful or arrogant about his expectations for himself. The better description is matter of fact.
Smith said he was coming to UGA to rush the passer.
That desire to get after quarterbacks fits well with Smart’s hope that UGA can wreak more “havoc” on opposing offenses this season.
It also sounds like Smith has an eager partner in that pursuit with Johnson — the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect — who potentially could be just as impactful as Smith. Smart has frequently mentioned them together when talking about his 2019 class.
“I don’t know that there’s two better pass rushers in a signing class anywhere in the country when it comes to speed,” Smart said in December. “Jermaine can run. Nolan can run. And these guys have to help us disrupt quarterbacks — which we struggled with this year.”
The good news is that Smith seems poised to do that, and Johnson seems like a willing accomplice on that mission as well.
Yet even with early flashes of brilliance during practice, earning playing time at outside linebacker won’t be easy for either player. While it’s true that UGA hasn’t a lot of sacks under Smart, this year’s potential cast of pass rushers is deeper than any point in Smart’s coaching career. It includes the likes of Brenton Cox and Adam Anderson — 5-star signees from the 2018 class.
That said, the 2019 signees won’t back down from the competition. They’ll continue their attempt at emulating that certain super hero with the big “S” on his chest when they can, and ultimately UGA will almost certainly benefit from them all.
So far, this situation is working out exactly as planned.
For more on what Smart said about Smith and Johnson — and for what Smith has said about being a pass rusher in the past — check out the video, linked above.