Kirby Smart made it clear he liked his young inside linebackers last year. We just didn’t get to see very many snaps from them given the Bulldogs had Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall and Quay Walker on the roster. All three were taken in the first 100 selections of the 2022 NFL Draft, with Dean also winning the Butkus Award for being the nation’s top linebacker.
With the trio all off in the NFL, Georgia has plenty of snaps to give out to its less heralded linebackers. Sophomore Jamon Dumas-Johnson really separated himself in the spring and seems like a sure bet to start at one of the inside linebacker spots.
Related: Jamon Dumas-Johnson emerging as next great Georgia football linebacker: ‘I think Pop is going to be special’
Yet it was another sophomore inside linebacker that Smart spoke highly of on Thursday. That would be fellow sophomore Smael Mondon, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound physical freak.
“Smael Mondon is as good an athlete as I’ve seen,” Smart said. “He has to increase his physicality, his toughness. He missed spring because of a shoulder surgery. But he’s put on some good, solid weight. Played a lot of snaps on special teams. Core linebackers get valuable experience on special teams before they’re the featured guy.”
Athleticism has always been a strength of Mondon’s dating back to his time as a 5-star recruit. His high school career wasn’t just limited to playing linebacker for Paulding County High School in Dallas, Ga. He played running back, wide receiver and returned kicks. Add in running the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and excelling in the triple jump and he has all the makings of a varsity athlete.
The one thing missing from Mondon’s resume is reps. His senior season of high school was shortened by a knee injury. He then missed spring practice this year as he recovered from labrum surgery. Those injuries robbed him of the ability to further develop as an off-ball linebacker.
Mondon played a key role on Georgia’s special teams units last year and totaled 12 tackles while working in mop-up duty. He was able to appear in all 15 games for the Bulldogs. This fall, he’ll need to take advantage of all the extra reps he’ll get if he is to make an impact befitting of his athletic gifts.