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 this 4-star or 5-star might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
The book on Smith has changed a lot over that last month. The buzz has gone from being a promising talent tucked away for 2019 to perhaps the top player overall who is currently committed to UGA.
With a respectful tip of the cap to 4-star OT Max Wray in 2018, it looks like the young man is on a whole new level. He’s also working hard every day not to rest on that progress, too.
Smith could have been seen as another early commitment who was passionate about his decision. He wanted to help lure others to play with him at Georgia. Those were the same steps followed by 5-star freshman Richard LeCounte III out of South Georgia.
Yet he was still two years removed from playing in Athens. Smith, it should be noted, was seen as 4-star prospect when he committed on Jan. 29.
Smith was only about 205 pounds then. The 2019 U.S. Army All-American looked like a skinny but passionate kid when he dominated other rising sophomores at the “True 19” All-Star clash with Texas in mid-January.
But then he moved to IMG Academy. It makes one wonder whether or not those Ascenders have a chrysalis in a corner of their weight room.
Smith, in less than a month, packed on 18 pounds when he showed up at the Nike Orlando regional for “The Opening” on Sunday. Where did those 223 pounds come from?
“I never ate breakfast before I got to IMG,” Smith told DawgNation on Sunday. “Now I have a big breakfast every day at IMG Academy. You have to eat three meals a day at IMG. I eat eggs every morning. I have an omelet every morning with bacon, egg and cheese there every day.”
He also measured in at 6 feet, 3 inches. It meant sudden change for Smith. This was no longer a skinny talented kid that the “Wait until 2019” narrative applies to.
At the rate he is progressing, he should be able to contribute immediately as a true freshman in 2019.
Yet the most important thing on Smith’s mind has nothing to do with early playing time.
“I am just thankful to God that I have a chance to play Division I football,” Smith said. “I know a lot of guys where I come from who wish they had that dream. … At the end of the day, I want my mom to be crying at my college graduation when I show her my degree.”
— Final 5 (@Final5Linemen) February 20, 2017
A few things to consider about Nolan Smith
- Smith went from 207 pounds to 223 pounds and somehow added explosiveness.
- One of the camp directors said this might have been one of the most talented regionals that the Opening has held in Orlando. Smith looked every bit like one of the top players at the camp.
- He finished the afternoon rated as one of the Top 5 DL performers at that camp.
- His Nike “Sparq” rating measured in at 129.75. That was in the 99th percentile in the nation this year. His “Sparq” rating finished second in the camp. The athlete who bested him was in the Class of 2018 and weighed in at 167 pounds.
- 4-star WR Jeremiah Holloman provided the best showing for UGA in the Nike “Sparq” rating in the Class of 2017. He posted a 135.0 rating. Draw your own athletic conclusions between an elite 2017 receiver to a sophomore linebacker and defensive end. (It should also be noted that Owen Pappoe, the top player in Georgia for 2019, also posted a 135.0 Sparq rating last year in testing.)
- Smith packed on 16 pounds of what seemed pure muscle in five weeks and was measured with a 4.6 laser time in the 40-yard dash. His vertical leap was an eye-popping 40 inches. That’s the stuff for 5-star small forwards and shooting guards who will have their own shoe line one day. Not a defensive end or an outside linebacker.
- He’s also positioned himself among the right crowd. Smith has basically been at the side of 5-star teammate Xavier Thomas at IMG Academy. Those two worked all their drills together at the Nike camp. Thomas is rated as the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2018. In one drill rep, he put 6-foot-7, 377-pound IMG teammate Evan Neal on his backside.
- Smith’s Sparq rating would have finished sixth overall among all the totals posted during the 2016 testing season. It is currently third overall in 2017.
- He plans to get up to 230 pounds at IMG Academy. That’s what he sees as an ideal weight for an OLB at Georgia. The plan after that is to work on trimming his body fat and turning his bad weight into muscle. That might be hard. Smith said his body fat percentage is already right at 5.2 percent. He does a lot of ab workouts. “I live in Savannah so we are right there by the beach,” Smith said. “I go to the beach a lot so I’ve got to make sure I look good.”
What’s evident about Nolan Smith
Smith was already seen as one of the Top 50 players in the Class of 2019, but he’s now clearly in the 5-star discussion. He showed the physical traits, but now he has the weight on his frame to match his potential.
He tossed the power ball 44 feet on Sunday. That’s four inches farther than the 260-pound freakishly explosive Thomas did at that test.
The Savannah native now looks like one of the top players in the nation regardless of class standing. He showed all the data necessary to make that projection on Sunday with his weight gain, combine testing and on-field showing against some of the top offensive tackles in the Southeaster.
A very respected talent evaluator took one look at Smith on Sunday morning and the first two things out of his mouth were: 1) What year is this kid that’s already committed to Georgia here? He has to be a 2018 kid, right? 2) He looks like he could be the top player in all of Florida in 2019.
He’s only going to get better with two more years of high school football left to play. Why? That’s because he carries the right mindset.
He sees 5-star Xavier Thomas at work every day. He sees 2018 Georgia target TK Chimedza work at defensive tackle every day. Smith is also motivated by 4-star DE Stephon Wynn at IMG.
“I’m nothing compared to them,” Smith said. “We work on the field together a lot every day. Just trying to be great and do that extra every day. Stephon Wynn, Xavier Thomas, TK (Chimedza) and Taron (Vincent) are all those elite guys. I’m just working. I’m just working to get to their level. They’re working with me and they are going to get me there.”
Check out his work at the Orlando regional in the following Facebook Live session. Smith’s reps, including the one where he puts an 377-pounder on his backside, come in the final 2-3 minutes of the broadcast.
Smith on the recent addition to the 2019 class
He was happy to see the addition of 2019 DL prospect Rashad Cheney to the class at Georgia last week. Smith said he didn’t see that coming, but we can expect to see a lot more follow.
“Like we said before, a lot of people in that “True 19″ game are going to be (Bulldogs) from that game,” Smith said. “But standing on that sideline there were also a lot of players who watched that game who were players, too. They are also going to be ‘Dawgs. Because they know what those Georgia boys did in that game and they are going to want to be a part of what is coming on the way in Athens.”
There are already three commitments for the Class of 2019 in Athens, but he Smith shared a prediction by the end of the summer.
“There are already three commitments but I will tell you five for sure,” Smith said. “I know five for sure. I know two more guys that are going to add to the class soon. There are a lot of guys that are already teetering on the edge of committing to Georgia.”
Smith said the boys who competed at the “True 19” game have renamed their group message from “True 19” to “Dawg Life.” He said there are approximately 20 top recruits in that message thread.
He said there was a good chance that at least 10 of those prospects wind up at Georgia.