Nolan Smith-Georgia football-leader
Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith is the vocal leader of the Georgia defense

Rising Georgia football star Nolan Smith returning, adds bite to reloading Bulldogs’ defense.

ATHENS — The Georgia football defense just added considerably more teeth with Nolan Smith announcing he will return for another season on his Instagram account.

Nolan Smith Instagram
Nolan Smith, Dawgnation

Smith is only the third returning starter off the Bulldogs’ defense to announce he’s returning, joining safety Christopher Smith and cornerback Kelee Ringo.

Robert Beal and William Poole, who started the CFP title game at the Star position, have yet to announce if they will return for another season.

Former West Virginia All-American Tykee Smith, who transferred in last season to play star, has announced he will return to the UGA program and will likely compete for a starting spot at Star or safety.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft is Monday (today), after which they have 72 hours to pull their names back out and return to college.

Smith, who will be the Bulldogs leading returning tackler (56), had projected as a second-day NFL draft pick (second or third round) and figures to improve his stock while helping Georgia defend its CFP Championship and No. 1 ranking.

RELATED: Reasons for Nolan Smith to come and go hint to return

Many of the stars from the Georgia defense are moving on, including underclassmen and projected first-round picks Jordan Davis, Travon Walker and Nakobe Dean, along with likely second-day pick Lewis Cine.

Smith, the No. 1 overall rated recruit in the 2019 class, will probably be a preseason All-American pick next season, along with being a popular choice for businesses seeking Georgia players for NIL deals.

The University of Georgia is also likely to purchase an insurance policy for Smith, as it does for some of its most elite players.

Smith was pivotal for the Bulldogs’ suffocating defense in the 33-18 CFP Championship Game win over Alabama last Monday.

Smith led the Bulldogs with 2 tackles-for-loss and had 3 QB hurries and a sack.

The UGA defense took center stage, holding Heisman Trophy quarterback Bryce Young to just one touchdown, and that came on a 16-yard drive after a Stetson Bennett fumble.

Young, facing the Bulldogs’ championship-level defense, was sacked four times and threw two interceptions.

RELATED: Bryce Young shoulders blame for Crimson Tide 33-18 loss to Georgia

Smith, a junior from Savannah, essentially called the shot leading up to the game.

“The difference between this game and that game is we just have to do it,” Smith said. “We have to find a way. I believe in our coaches. I trust in the plan.”

Here’s a look at the Georgia attrition list

DEFENSE

Key returning players

DE Nolan Smith

DT Jalen Carter

DL Zion Logue

DL Warren Brinson

CB Kelee Ringo

LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson

FS Christopher Smith

RELATED: Christopher Smith boosts Bulldogs with news of return

SS Dan Jackson

Star Tykee Smith

Unknown/not announced

CB Nyland Green

OLB Adam Anderson (suspended indefinitely)

OLB Robert Beal, Jr.

DB William Poole

Departing players/coaches

DC/OLB Dan Lanning (Oregon head coach)

NT Jordan Davis (NFL draft)

DT Devonte Wyatt (NFL draft)

LB Quay Walker (NFL draft)

LB Channing Tindall (NFL draft

SS Lewis Cine (underclassman NFL draft)

CB Derion Kendrick (NFL draft)

LB Nakobe Dean (underclassman NFL draft)

DE Travon Walker (underclassman NFL draft)

DB Lovasea Carroll (portal)

CB Jalen Kimber (portal)

CB Ameer Speed (portal)

DB Latavious Brini (portal)

OFFENSE

Key Returning Players

OT Broderick Jones

OL Sedrick Van Pran

OL Tate Ratledge

OT Warren McClendon

OG Warren Ericson

OT Amarius Mims

TE Brock Bowers

WR Adonai Mitchell

WR Ladd McConkey

RB Kenny McIntosh

RB Kendall Milton

RB Daijun Edwards

QB Brock Vandagriff

Unknown/not announced

WR Kearis Jackson

WR Arian Smith

WR Jermaine Burton

WR Arik Gilbert

WR Dominick Blaylock

WR Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint

TE John FitzPatrick

OL Clay Webb

OL Owen Condon

TE Darnell Washington

QB Carson Beck

QB Stetson Bennett

QB JT Daniels

PK Jack Podlesny (graduate)

Departing players/coaches

WR coach Cortez Hankton (LSU)

RB Zamir White (NFL draft)

RB James Cook (NFL draft)

WR George Pickens (underclassman draft)

OL Jamaree Salyer (NFL draft)

OG Justin Shaffer (NFL draft)

WR Justin Robinson (portal, Mississippi State)

WR Jaylen Johnson (portal)

P Jake Camarda (NFL draft)

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