JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — This is all new to Maurice Smith. Smith’s a senior and a grizzled veteran as far as college players go, but this losing thing is tough to take.
Georgia’s loss to Florida on Saturday represented the Bulldogs’ fourth this season. That’s more than Smith lost the last two seasons at Alabama and one short of his entire three-year tenure there (37-5).
“These losses are kind of hard,” Smith said after Georgia’s 24-10 loss to Florida Saturday. It dropped the Bulldogs to 4-4 overall and 2-4 in SEC play.
“People are down,” Smith said. “But the good thing is nobody is pointing fingers. We’re all united as one team and we know we have potential to get better. That’s one thing we have to do.”
Smith could still be playing for the No. 1-ranked and currently undefeated Crimson Tide. But in a rather high-profile and contested move, he chose to take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule and follow Kirby Smart to Georgia. Smart was his coordinator at Bama.
Smith’s a starter at nickelback and a defensive regular for the Bulldogs, as he’d hoped. And he had some big plays against the Gators. He recorded a 15-yard sack of quarterback Luke Del Rio and finished with four tackles.
It’s just the losing he didn’t envision. Nevertheless, Smith said he wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s easy to win and be on a winning team and everything’s all good,” said Smith, who has 30 tackles, an interception and three pass break-ups. “But you really find out more about yourself when times get hard. You’ve got people looking at you to be a leader and to make plays when you need to. I love the fact that I came here and I have no regrets.”
Winning and losing, Smith pointed out, is not what this move was all about. He’s also taking a full load of graduate-study classes and hopes to get through before giving the NFL a shot after this season.
“It’s a load,” Smith said. “It’s graduate school. I love it though. Hopefully I’ll get my public health degree soon. I’m working hard on it. I’m working as hard in the classroom as I am on the field.”
Meanwhile, Smith said him and his old teammates stay in regular contact. Sometimes they exchange pleasantries, sometimes there’s some healthy razzing.
“I talk to those guys every weekend,” he said as he sat in a lower concourse outside the Bulldogs’ locker room at EverBank Field. “They’re probably blowing my phone up now. …
“It’s easy when you’re winning but it shows true character when you’re losing and you’re down and it’s hard. The situations we’ve been put in as a team and I’ve been put in personally are going to help me in life later one.”