Georgia wide receiver Arian Smith (11) during the Bulldogs' game with Missouri in Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Anxious Arian Smith eager to apply track speed in Georgia football receiving corps

ATHENS — Arian Smith is in a hurry, but that’s hardly surprising.

Smith, after all, is one of the fastest players in college football — if not THE fastest — when healthy.

A look at his eye-popping 37.6 yards per catch average provides evidence of just how explosive the redshirt sophomore is when in uniform.

But staying healthy has been the catch for Smith, who has played in just eight of Georgia’s 25 games over the past two seasons, catching five passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith’s physical setbacks and injuries have ranged from a torn meniscus to a fractured wrist, turf toe, a shin contusion and the broken fibula he suffered in practice last November.

“It’s frustrating, but you can only control what you can control,” said Smith, who is going through spring drills in a black, non-contact jersey while recovering from the broken bone in his leg he suffered in practice last November.

“It’s frustrating, but you have to bounce back and then play like it didn’t happen.”

Smith put his freshman injuries behind him last spring and split time between football and track, finishing eighth at the SEC outdoor meet with a 10.18-second time in the 100 meters.

Smith’s not sure if he’ll run track again later this spring, but it’s clear he has the itch to compete once healthy.

“I’m anxious, I love sports, I love track and football, I’m ready to let loose and show everyone what I can do,” said Smith, who ran a 4.29-second time in the 40-yard dash in high school. “That’s the goal this year.”

Smith has the juice to be Georgia’s version of NFL blazer Tyreek Hill, but he also possesses the sort of world class-speed reserved for Olympic hopefuls.

“Yes, at the end of the day I’m going to have to make a decision to choose my sport,” Smith said.

Going back and forth between the two slowed Smith’s football development last spring, and there’s room to debate if it has led him to being more injury prone.

“(Training) is very different, a lot of workouts, both are going to benefit me,” Smith said. “I have meetings some days and don’t have meetings on other days. Some days I have track and football workouts, so it’s really hard to balance both.

“You have to know what you’ve got going on that day.”

The good news for Smith is he knows what’s going on in Coach Todd Monken’s offense, and he’s eager to contribute.

“I know of everything, I’m playing all three, I know all three (receiver positions),” Smith said. “It all depends where he wants me to play.”

Smith shared how he has become mentally tougher since arriving from Lakeland (Fla.) High School, no longer letting one mistake ruin an entire practice.

“I like to do everything right and to the best of my ability,” Smith said. “(But now) when things don’t go right, I feel like I’m able to bounce back and give 100 percent with the next play.”

Smith said he feels like he’s 70-percent healed, even though he’s hitting his top speeds once again.

“I feel like they are really cautious of letting me trade in my black (non-contact) jersey for a red jersey,” Smith said. “If I’m in a red jersey I’m vulnerable, I can get hit. If I’m in a black jersey the defense can’t hit me.”

Smith, restless throughout his interview, wants to be the dynamic speed receiver the Bulldogs need with Jermaine Burton transferring to Alabama.

“I feel like I”m that guy,” Smith said, “but I just want to show it. I’m not a big talk guy. Actions speak louder than words”

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