ATHENS – A few hours after finally being cleared to join the Georgia football team, Maurice Smith stood before his new teammates on Friday night. Head coach Kirby Smart brought Smith to the front of the room.
‘We all know what he’s been through, what he went through trying to get over here,” Smart said, to the best of junior safety Dominick Sanders’ recollection. “He kinda of went through hell but he’s here now.”
Smith then told the room he was ready to come in and work, according to Sanders, and at the end of his short speech there was applause.
“A lot of guys already knew him,” Sanders said. “It was a good reaction. He stood up and told us he was ready to come in and work, and we all welcomed him in.”
So now it’s all about football. To that end, Georgia’s newest player is not waiting to make an impression.
Smith is working at nickel back, according to Sanders. That’s the same spot he finished Alabama’s spring practice as the first-teamer.
Despite being new, Smith hasn’t been afraid to speak up.
“He’s been vocal, letting us know he’s ready to come in here and work,” Sanders said. “He mentioned he’s ready to be on a winning team, and that’s something we’re all looking forward to.”
Everything Sanders mentioned after Monday’s practice – just Smith’s second at Georgia – was positive. Several times, he said Smith’s addition creates a “new defense,” thanks to his immediate impact.
There has been a small learning curve for Smith, Sanders said, but indicated it had to do with off-field acclimations, like the atmosphere in Athens, and things around campus. On it, he’s been able to lean on his previous experiences and relationships. It’s the same scheme, the same coaches.
“The things he did with Kirby and them at Alabama, they’ve kinda still got that going on,” Sanders said. “It’s not very different from what he had going on over there.”
Smith’s previous knowledge of the defense and familiarity with the coaches has allowed him to be comfortable right away. Sanders recalled watching Smith on film a few times last year. He didn’t watch him much, but enough to think he’s a good player, and when he decided to transfer to the Bulldogs, Sanders thought he would fit in immediately.
“He came from a good place, and he’s at another good place,” Sanders said. “You could tell he’s ready to put in the work.”