Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? The play call here was intended to be a debunking of a parallel with freshman ILB Nakobe Dean and a young man who is now considered one of the all-time great Bulldogs. But then, well …
Nakobe Dean only needs to work on being the first Nakobe Dean at the University of Georgia. There will never be another Roquan Smith. It is highly unfair to try to thrust that on a college freshman.
Check out the AJC file photo from Roquan Smith as a member of the “Super 11” way back in the summer of 2014. (Curtis Compton/AJC)
“Ko-Dean” just needs to do his own thing. Roquan didn’t even start to flash until his second season. Dean will check the box in a lot of areas but maybe not all the same boxes Smith did. He was the first ILB to go in the top 10 since Luke Kuechly in 2012.
Those boilerplate phrases do serve as go-to reality checks when it comes to Dean and a recent ballplayer the Bulldogs enrolled from Montezuma in 2015. Those are about common sense and football.
Lofty expectations can only burden a promising career. Not uplift it. Dean should just try to be his own man. That should serve as the proper course with any Dean and Smith narrative.
But then the phone rang.
Horn Lake coach Brad Boyette was on the line. He had two screens scattered and smothered with highlights.
Smith’s greatest hits from his “Montezuma Missile” days was on one of those.
Dean, his star pupil, played on the other.
“I’m sitting here looking at this film of Roquan here,” Boyette said, with exasperation. “Then I’m looking at Nakobe and I have to take a second and sort it all out. I’m looking at these films and I swear at times I can’t really figure out which one is which.”
“This is sort of fun. But at the same time, it is almost a little scary. There are a lot of similarities. I have to catch myself with ‘Ok this is Roquan again’ and then ‘This is Nakobe’ here.”
A reel comparison: Roquan Smith and Nakobe Dean
“I can see now why everyone draws this comparison,” Boyette said. “One of the first things the Georgia coaches said was about that. When you see it now, it is pretty clear. Roquan and Nakobe are both playing inside linebacker but they have the movement skills of a corner or maybe a free safety.”
The view from Dean’s high school coach is only one side of this task. DawgNation also put the Dean essentials in front of Smith’s high school coach.
Larry Harold Jr.’s reply first came via a text message. Harold was still starting to get his arms around all those Dean/Smith comparisons.
“I was skeptical but Nakobe Dean is a PLAYER,” Harold replied via text with the weight of four exclamation points. “He’s quick, athletic, explosive and a tackling machine! He runs side-to-side like extremely well like ‘Ro! He is a hard hitter like ‘Ro.”
“However, he’s a much more polished pass rusher than ‘Ro was. I don’t know if he can cover like ‘Ro but I don’t think they asked him to.”
He capped off his initial text with this phrase: “Big time.”
With that, maybe these lines can serve as a spring practice introduction to Mr. Dean. That young man finished up as a 5-star, a state champ and recorded a 4.38 grade-point average.
Dean was even named the 2018 Butkus Award recipient for his outstanding play at linebacker on the high school level. That’s the same position-specific trophy that Smith won for the college ranks in 2017. He was the first Bulldog to claim that honor.
They do have a slight history. When Dean chose UGA on Dec. 19, he got a message from Smith. The former UGA great welcomed him to the family.
RELATED: Nakobe Dean follows in the steps of NFL first-rounders and a Heisman Trophy winner with Watkins Award honor in Washington D.C.
Roquan Smith and Nakobe Dean
There is no comparison between the 2017 model Roquan Smith and any other ILB in college football today. Period. But what about the 2014 model Smith and Dean from 2018?
Nakobe Dean slipped to the No.2 overall ILB spot at the end of the 2019 recruiting cycle. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
That’s really the only comparison which will be at work here. But this time it was taken out of the hands of any analyst or scout who needed a “hot take” for a sound byte.
The resident expert on Nakobe Dean’s prep career is one half of our panel.