ATHENS — Nolan Smith is still a work in progress in the eyes of Georgia coach Kirby Smart, but the SEC office viewed him as the co-SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday.
Smith wracked up a career-high 8 tackles and was involved in two sacks that produced points, a strip-sack that sparked at TD drive and a sack in the South Carolina end zone during the 40-13 win.
“He had two really big plays and he continues to play with great effort,” UGA coach Kirby Smart said on Monday. “He practices really hard and he does things the right way in terms of physical toughness - not afraid of contact - and continues to grow and get better.”
Smith ranks No. 2 on the Georgia defense with 2.5 sacks this season, a half-sack behind team leader Adam Anderson. Smith is also tied with Anderson for third on the team with 12 tackles behind Channing Tindall (17) and Lewis Cine (17).
“Nolan Smith, my brother, part of my Wolfpack,” Anderson said, referring to the nickname the UGA linebackers have for themselves. “Just seeing him come in every day with a hot motor, he’s young and has so much going for himself.”
Smart, who saw five players off his defense selected in the 2021 NFL Draft last spring, believes Smith can have even more going for him with more work.
“I still think he can show some improvement in his run defense, in the way he strikes and plays blockers, technique and things,” Smart said. “But, he’s a great closer, he’s a great recognition guy of plays coming, and he’s a great pass rusher.”
Smith, the No. 1-ranked recruit in the nation in the 2019 Class, said he fed off the energy provided by home-field crowd at Sanford Stadium on Saturday night.
“When the momentum gets to swinging and we are at home in-between the hedges, it just feels like no one can stop you,” Smith said on Saturday night. “Like I said before, you have to be part of that 11 on the field hearing that crowd roaring and yelling. You just have to believe in the call and the confidence of the whole team, the whole 11.
“Moving as one band, one sound...it is just a beautiful thing.”
Nolan Smith postgame South Carolina