Dynamic Georgia newcomers Jermaine Johnson, Nolan Smith ‘shocked’ UGA veteran
ATHENS — It’s one thing when a coach praises players, even one as forthright and direct about personnel as Georgia’s Kirby Smart.
But when teammates on the other side of the ball are taking note, there’s most always something to it.
Especially when it’s a proven commodity like 2018 FWAA Freshman All-American and 2019 preseason All-SEC offensive tackle candidate Isaiah Wilson.
The 6-foot-7, 340-pound Wilson confided Saturday that newcomers Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson have “shocked” him with their talents through the first six spring practices.
“I mean, Nolan is real strong, he’s a great player,” Wilson said. “He’s going to be a great talent. He’s really athletic, a super strong kid.”
Smith, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound outside linebacker originally from Savannah, was ranked as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite.
As difficult as it has been for freshman linebackers to contribute immediately, Smith has the look of the exception to the rule.
The fact that Smart has talked about more “havoc” in his front seven lends more credence to Smith potentially starting immediately. It’s much easier to get players on the field in “attack” roles than “read” roles.
The 6-6, 250 Johnson, ranked as the No. 1 overall junior college prospect, has also made his move, making what Smart famously referred to as “superman” plays.
Wilson vouched for that on Saturday.
“Jermaine is really …. he long-armed me a couple of times,” Wilson said. “I have to get my hands right with him. He’s tall, and he’s really filled out well, super strong.
“Those two have shocked me. I think they are good football players, our team is full of great football players.”
Smart indicated last Tuesday he agrees, and Smith and Johnson will be favorites to find their way on the field immediately.
Returning starter Walter Grant and former 5-star prospect now sophomore Brenton Cox could be looking over their shoulders.
“We’re going to play kids at the University of Georgia that give effort and play hard and do the right things and those two guys, man, they play hard,” Smart said. “Now, they don’t know what they’re doing yet but that’s our job. I’m very thankful that they’re here 15 practices.
“Nolan has flashed some plays. He made a hell of a hit today and a really good play. He’s also some flashed some ‘what are you doing?’ Jermaine has been the same way. We call them superman plays. You look out there and go ‘man, who is that guy? who is that jersey number?'”