Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith knows the Bulldogs need to do a better job of creating negative plays on defense. Chiefly, sacking the quarterback and having more tackles for loss in the run game.
Smith admitted that it was identified as a problem in the offseason. The Georgia coaches have harped on it and Smith added he trusts the coaches will scheme up ways to create more sacks and tackles for loss.
“Like they say we’re gonna cause a lot of havoc,” Smith said.
One of the ways that might happen for the Georgia defense in 2020 is Smith himself making a leap. The sophomore from Savannah, Ga., had some promising moments as a freshman, as he finished with 2.5 sacks on the season. His 19 quarterback pressures were good for fourth on the team.
Smith said his 2019 season was mostly him trying to adjust to the transition that comes with going from the high school to college level. Now he’s grown accustomed to the various classes, meetings, and playbooks that come with being a college football player.
The outside linebacker joked that his classes have gotten harder this year but he’s having an easier time on the football field thanks to some of the extra steps he’s now taking.
“I learned the playbook very well and I try to come in and meet everyday extra,” Smart said. This is my second year, so I’m trying to come in, meet extra, meet with the GA’s and see what installs we’ve got into our meetings.
“So just meeting before the meeting and just carrying it onto the field in practice.”
Last year, one of those assistants was former Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis. Jones was a First Team All-American in his time with the program. He was also the last Bulldog to reach double-digit sacks in a season.
Jones isn’t the only former Georgia outside linebacker that is helping Smith’s game. The Georgia outside linebackers over the years have dubbed themselves “The Wolfpack.” Think of it as a fraternity, with the older members helping out some of the current players.
And with the likes of Leonard Floyd, D’Andre Walker, Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter on active NFL rosters, there’s quite a lot of help Smith can get.
“I try to workout with those guys,” Smith said. “We’re a close-knit group with the alumni and stuff so they just teach me stuff they’ve learned from the league that I can apply to my playing days at Georgia.”
Two of those in particular that Smith thanked were Carter and Davin Bellamy. Those two were key parts of the Georgia defense in 2017, when the Bulldogs made it all the way to the national championship game.
The outside linebackers that year also had Walker, who didn’t start but led the unit in sacks. Smith could do the same this year in a loaded outside linebacker room that includes the likes of Azeez Ojulari, Jermaine Johnson and Adam Anderson.
Related: Outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson: ‘I think I took a big leap this offseason’
It’s not a guarantee that Smith finds himself in a starting role this season. That’s the case for many talented Georgia defenders, given the impressive depth the team has.
But as he showed last year, Smith doesn’t need to start to make an impact on the Georgia team.
Smith spoke about the jump he made going from high school standout to college freshman. He feels that he conquered that task. Now he’s got a chance to make an even bigger jump as a sophomore.
Going from a player every Georgia fan knows, to one every SEC fan knows after a potentially strong sophomore campaign.
“Hopefully, I can play a bigger role in this year to come,” Smith said.
Georgia football outside linebacker Nolan Smith on the team’s pass rush
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation