ATHENS — It didn’t take long for former West Virginia All-American Tykee Smith to realize Georgia football would be a different world.
“First couple of days of camp, we were coming through there, you know how Kirby (Smart) is,” Smith said during a recent appearance in a Player’s Lounge podcast.
“We out there we’re going to play physical ball here, you’re either going to hit in the mouth or you’re going to hit somebody in the mouth,” he said. “So we’re out there playing physical now, the first couple of days of the camp ... and I’m like ‘damn’ …. going against some big (players) now.”
Smith is expected to play a big part for the Bulldogs this season amid a major reload on defense.
Georgia had an NFL-record 15 players drafted and looks to replace 10 starters from the unit that opened last season against Clemson on defense.
The Bulldogs haven’t dipped into the NCAA transfer portal to this point this year, but with Smith and former LSU tight end Arik Gilbert coming to fruition after their issues in 2021, Georgia should get a boost.
Smith was projected to be among the starters in 2021, but a preseason foot injury led him to miss the first five games before he recorded three tackles in a win over Auburn.
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The following week, Smith suffered a season-ending injury when he suffered a torn ACL.
The 2022 season opens the door for Smith to have the sort of season he envisioned when he left the Mountaineers’ Big 12 program following his sophomore season.
Smart let Smith know from the start the Bulldogs feel like he’s the right fit.
“As soon as I got the email saying I was in the portal, as soon as I hit Tweet they were the first people calling my phone,” Smith recalled.
“There really wasn’t a (recruiting) pitch, I just felt me coming here and being coached by Coach Smart, and the defense they run is an NFL defense, so I felt it would be the best for me and best for my future,” Smith said. “And being around the players here, I thought that would allow me to play better and develop more.”
Smith said he spent a great deal of time with Minnesota Vikings’ first-round NFL Draft pick Lewis Cine along with returning team captain Christopher Smith.
“This year, me being one of the experienced guys, playing college football and having a younger group,” Smith said, “I’m just trying to make sure everyone is straight and getting everyone communicating.”
Smith was among a handful of projected starters that were out this spring recovering from various injuries, though Smart said he along with all of the others are expected back before next season.
Georgia opens the 2022 campaign against Oregon on Sept. 3 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
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