Why Nolan Smith remains committed to UGA despite a 5-star push from Clemson
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way a 5-star commit such as Nolan Smith II might lean, plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
Nolan Smith leaves Georgia to perfect his game but plans to play in-state again
There’s a story going on along the recruiting trail right now about a young man from Savannah who always wanted to play for Georgia. He was good enough, got the offer and committed.
Nolan Smith II then moved to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to perfect his craft. He put on 18 quick pounds while adding to his speed and first-step explosiveness. He trained so hard for the 40s at The Opening that he was ready to run a 4.4 on the laser.
Defensive ends and outside linebackers aren’t supposed to do that. But then again, they aren’t supposed to post vertical leap measures of 41 inches, either.
But when they do, the big boys of college football can’t help but notice. Alabama and Clemson are lurking for a player who is now seen as a 5-star recruit and the No. 3 overall prospect for 2019. That’s according to the 247Sports composite. Scout.com ranks Smith as the nation’s No. 1 overall player for 2019.
There’s a special tug in that tug-of-war there from Clemson. When Smith visited that campus earlier this spring, he took his mother, Mimi, along. That visit went well. Very well.
Mix in the fact that Smith has built a bond at IMG with 5-star Xavier Thomas, and that only bolsters Clemson’s chances. Thomas is a dominating defensive end in every sense of the term. He’s already pledged to play at Clemson for Dabo Swinney in the Class of 2018.
Why Xavier Thomas wants Nolan Smith with him at Clemson
Thomas also would like Smith to join him in 2019.
“I first met Nolan when he moved down to IMG,” Thomas said. “We weren’t that close, but then we grew very close playing together every day and seeing each other every day. I’m talking to him and trying to get him to come with me. We are going to have a very good season and a productive season based on the spring we had. I feel like he can come to Clemson and be the other defensive end with me.”
That seems like a sound projection. Smith was just a junior at The Opening earlier this week, but he was easily one of the Top 10 defensive line prospects at the event.
How will Thomas recruit him to Clemson?
“I am going to give him some hints here and there that I want him to come,” Thomas said. “But he knows how I feel about him coming to Clemson. I won’t say too much. He’s just a rising junior, and I wouldn’t want nobody to do that to me when I was that young.”
The nation’s No. 2 overall prospect, Thomas, said he sees a lot of good things in Smith’s game.
“The biggest thing I see that I like is his aggressiveness,” Thomas said.”To be that young and that aggressive on the field is pretty special.”
Thomas described their relationship as a budding lifelong friendship. Smith isn’t just another 5-star player he wants flying in off the edge with him in Death Valley.
“Nolan and I have a very good relationship,” Thomas said. “He’s a very good guy off the field and a very genuine guy. He’s a cool dude.”
If a flip happens, then Thomas doesn’t expect it to come easily. He knows how much the Tigers want to add Smith to their 2019 class. It all stemmed from a visit to IMG Academy earlier this year.
“I would say he is going to wait a little while or wait a good minute,” Thomas said. “I don’t see him making a decision until his senior year or something like that.”
Thomas was impressed by how Smith went right after the competition at The Opening at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
“He’s going to dominate here next year,” Thomas said. “I can tell you that.”
Why Nolan Smith remains committed to UGA
There’s the Thomas factor to consider here between Smith and Clemson. But there’s also his great friend, Keiondre Jones, a fellow Georgian from Callaway High in Hogansville.
Jones ranks as the nation’s No. 3 guard for 2019. He’s been heavily recruited by Kirby Smart and UGA for a very long time. He got his UGA offer prior to his freshman season in July 2015.
Let’s say UGA signs both Jamaree Salyer and Trey Hill in the Class of 2018. That would be the nation’s Nos. 1 and 2 prospects at guard. Would that depth, combined with Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer, be a key factor for Jones?
Jones also likes Clemson. Would that make it hard for the Bulldogs to sign Jones? Smith said he didn’t think so.
“Recruiting is all fun and games, but at the end of the day we are all still competing,” Smith said. “If I do go to ‘Bama or I do go to Ohio State or I do go to Clemson, at the end of the day I am still competing for a job. My recruitment is over. I’m fighting for a job. I could care less about the 2018 defensive end they brought in if he was a 5-star. Or the 2017 guy they brought in if he was a 5-star. He’s got to put his pants on one leg at a time just like me. He has to put his pads on and go out there and run after that ball and do what I do.
“I would say Keiondre is the same way. If both of them go to Georgia, he’s going to compete and fight for that job he wants. He’s not going to lay down or go to another school if that’s what he wants. I’m really close with him, so I know that for sure.”
When I spoke to Smith in December, he said that he was going to find a way to play with Jones. It might be hard, but he’d find that way. Does he still feel that way?
“It is getting easier and easier every day,” Smith said. “But I know with Georgia we just need to get some wins and we’ll be good.”
Is that the best way to look at his decision? If the Bulldogs win, then Smith remains in?
“Not really,” Smith said. “I’m really there unless something tragic happens or something like that. I’m talking about the other guys there. Other guys are hyped up about the wins and ‘I want to win a national championship’ and stuff. If we can prove we can get a 10-win season, then we can say that to that other big recruits that ‘if you come here, then we can build up to even more’ here at Georgia.”
Why Nolan Smith uses ‘we’ all the time about Georgia
Smith made it clear that UGA is still a “we” thing with him at The Opening. He used the term “we” eight times along three sentences to describe his feelings about Georgia.
Is that the best way to look at the strength of his commitment right now?
“That’s a ‘we’ for me with Georgia,” Smith said. “We are one. You have got to trust in the process unless something tragic happens or I get there and we really start talking about this and that and I really don’t like it, and my mom decides that isn’t the place for me. Then I will just de-commit. But for now and until then, then I am Georgia. I am all Georgia.”
He’s going to say that, but then there are other stories where fans will read that he is “open” to schools such as Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. That all goes back to when he committed. He committed to play for his home-state school and was overjoyed to do so back in January.
But he did say then he was also going to visit other schools. He did commit very early in the middle of his sophomore year. That hasn’t changed. It just draws more headlines when he is a 5-star UGA commit. Especially when he performs so well on a national stage as he did at The Opening.
DawgNation also heard stories about Smith trying to recruit 5-star Brenton Cox, who has committed to Ohio State, back to Georgia when they were in Oregon. That’s a clear action that shows those words from the previous paragraphs are not hollow.
Has he even considered a de-commitment yet?
“You know I have some thoughts about things but that hasn’t really come across my mom’s mind and my mind,” Smith said. “We make decisions together.”
Smith said that his mother “loved it” when describing that Clemson visit. He said she had fun.
“My mother usually doesn’t post recruiting pictures when we go on visits and the only ones she posted were from Georgia and Clemson,” Smith said. “She really doesn’t care where I go, but I just want to make sure my mom knows she feels comfortable with it. She can read people, and I can read people, so if we both get good vibes from people, then I know that is a great place for me to be.”
He said he hasn’t asked his mother what she considers her favorite school.
“I haven’t thought to ask her yet,” Smith said. “I know she still loves Georgia.”
The 5-star prospect shot down the rumor that he was going to visit Clemson for its “Cookout” on July 21. He said it was a Class of 2018 event and that he wasn’t invited.
“They never told me about it,” Smith said.
Smith said he plans to report back to IMG Academy on July 15. He said he has no other visits planned for this summer.
“When I get there and if I decide that I really want to go somewhere else bad, then I will make it happen,” he said.