ATHENS — That didn’t take long. Less than 24 hours after being finally cleared by the SEC, Maurice Smith was in uniform and participating in a Georgia football practice.
Smith, wearing No. 2, was going through drills with the other defensive backs as the Bulldogs readied for a scrimmage. It wasn’t clear whether Smith would participate in the scrimmage. Head coach Kirby Smart is scheduled to meet with the media after the scrimmage, which was set to begin around 1:30 p.m.
The senior defensive back got on a flight soon after the SEC officially cleared him to transfer to Georgia on Friday afternoon. He will now have three weeks to practice, with Georgia’s season opener coming Sept. 3 against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome.
Smith wore No. 21 at Alabama, but that’s not available at Georgia, because Frank Sinkwich wore it.
Suffice to say, it’s very unusual to add an immediate-impact player this close to the season. Smith finished Alabama’s spring practice as the first-team nickel back, and while that was no means certain for the season, it was clear that Nick Saban and defensive coordinator/secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt had Smith in their plans for 2016.
Smith only started two games in three years at Alabama, but was regarded as a versatile, smart player, and will have close to no learning curve for the defense. That’s because Smart was Alabama’s defensive coordinator the past three years, and Georgia defensive coordinator/secondary coach Mel Tucker was Alabama’s secondary coach and Smith’s position coach last year.
Smith’s mother said the plan is definitely for him to play in 2016, though the SEC release on Friday alluded to him being eligible to play at Georgia in 2016 or 2017. It’s always possible that because of the late date Smith could opt to redshirt this season. But so far all indications have been for him playing right away, especially with his familiarity with Georgia’s coaches.
The next question is where Smith plays in the secondary. If he slides in at nickel back, where sophomore Rico McGraw has been first team, then McGraw could move to safety, either as a backup or a replacement for senior Quincy Mauger. Or Smith could compete with sophomore Juwuan Briscoe or junior Malkom Parrish for one of the starting cornerback spots.