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Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Nolan Smith II (right), a 5-star UGA commit, still is being courted by other schools.

UGA recruiting: 5-star commit Nolan Smith II targeted by Alabama and 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, including the latest from 5-star commit Nolan Smith II, plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.


When Nolan Smith II committed to Georgia, he wasn’t as highly rated as he is now. Few players are.

Smith was a 4-star recruit in January. He was seen as one of the nation’s Top 50 or so players for 2019. That was before his stock surged.

Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith is Georgia’s highest-rated commitment for the Class of 2019. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

Smith transferred to Florida powerhouse IMG Academy in January. He was introduced to a daily nutrition and weight-room regimen. The Savannah native put on about 20 pounds and added more muscle but maintained his substantial quick-step explosiveness.

The 6-foot-3 defensive end/outside linebacker can clock a laser 4.59 time in the 40 and post a 40-inch vertical leap at 225 pounds. Those are stellar combine numbers for a rising junior defensive end.

Smith is a 5-star prospect and rated as the nation’s No. 5 overall recruit in the 247Sports composite rankings for 2019. When he chose Georgia and said he wanted to be the leader of the class, he was seen as a cornerstone recruit.

Alabama and Clemson noticed. They both now want Smith as a cornerstone for their 2019 classes.

The recruiting attention has heated up on Nolan Smith

Smith has taken visits to both of those schools and has been back to Athens over the last couple of months.

Nolan Smith-UGA recruiting
Look for UGA commit Nolan Smith II to play a big role in the Class of 2019 for UGA. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The visits which he said he still would take when he committed caught everyone’s attention on social media. The Clemson interest is particularly intriguing because he’s developed a close relationship with IMG teammate Xavier Thomas. He’s the nation’s No. 2 recruit for 2018 and is already committed to the Tigers.

Thomas is a mentor and a friend to Smith. They are training partners at IMG and stalwarts on the same defense. Smith acknowledged that Alabama and Clemson are recruiting him as hard as anyone right now. Even Georgia.

Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith (right) has a high level of respect for his IMG teammate Xavier Thomas. Thomas is committed to Clemson as a 5-star DE in the Class of 2018. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

His thoughts on where his recruiting stands right now seem conflicted. He has said some things that show he’s conflicted. But then he also has said something that shows he’s still trying to serve as that cornerstone recruit.

“There are a lot of different factors with everything but I am really undisclosed on a lot of stuff that I’m looking into,” Smith said. “It is from everything to how many defensive ends are playing to how many defensive ends they have on their team on scholarship altogether.”

Thomas advised him to check out Clemson.

“Really it was like that, but more so [because] my momma always taught me that only real people can speak to real people,” Smith said. “Fake people are not going to listen. He’s the No. 1 player in the nation. So he’s obviously doing something right and following someone’s lead that has been the right way for him. I just had to find out for myself.”

Dabo Swinney and Death Valley made an impact.

“Clemson said a lot of really good things,” Smith said.

Did that message hit harder than what he saw and what he heard at Alabama?

“That’s undisclosed,” Smith said.

He said that really all the trips were the same. The main thing was how his mother felt about it. She accompanied him on the Clemson trip.

“I’m a big person with my mom,” Smith said. “So it is really our decision. But at the end of the day, she ultimately tells me it is my decision. She is also the one that has to send me to college. I want to make sure that she feels like I am in a good place. She’s a really big people person like I am and so when we both get the same vibe from a person then we can feel confident about those feelings that they are true.”

How Nolan Smith feels about Georgia right now

Nolan Smith
Nolan Smith has never been shy about expressing his love for the University of Georgia and the chance he has to play football there. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

There’s a need to place a word of caution about overreaction here. Smith is a member of the Class of 2019. He has some time to search out his options.

This is also not a flighty young man. Smith wears an inscribed cross under his pads to honor his grandmother and also spent last Christmas Day distributing food to the needy in downtown Savannah. 

He’s been raised right. Smith uses more “yes sirs” while texting back and forth than some of his peers do in a face-to-face conversation.

When asked about Georgia, his thoughts were clear. Smith said he went to G-Day in April and made another trip this spring. He said he hopes to return but not be able to before he has to return to IMG.

“Every time I go up there it just feels like home, and I just love the people and the environment,” Smith said, who also added that he was still happily committed to Georgia.

He’s hoping for a big season for the Bulldogs in 2017. Smith said he can use that.

“I just need us to play well,” Smith said. “If we can get a couple of big wins, then I can really get some boys on board. That’s all. We just need to win and that’s it. I have a lot of guys that I am going after but that is also undisclosed.”

Smith offered one final message for DawgNation on that topic. He said it across our interview and emphasized “all caps” for its use in print. Then he tweeted it.

Nolan Smith previews his experience at The Opening

Smith was one of a handful of rising juniors invited to compete next week at The Opening finals at Nike headquarters in Oregon. He’s making that trip with a goal.

“I really want to win the ‘Sparq’ rating championship,” he said.

That might seem outlandish but Smith rated seventh nationally across all the regionals. He also tested back in February and said he feels he’s made gains since then. That measure of an athlete’s explosiveness is tested across five events that include the 40-yard dash, agility shuttle and vertical leap.

Look for him to weigh in around 230 pounds at that event. He also has developed a mature outlook at the whole recruiting process.

“When I committed, there were a lot of people that said ‘We want you’ and stuff like that but then again they don’t want you because they might consider it a headache and a burden to try to recruit you. When I committed, a lot of schools backed off. That showed me the schools who really wanted me and everything like that. It helped me read between the lines.”

Smith has been home in Savannah for the summer. He even took on an internship while still training for an IMG schedule that he calls the toughest season any high school team will ever face.

His internship calls for him to wear a lot of hats for an environmental cleaning company. His emphasis has been in the human resources department.

“It is really a lot to take in and lot to do,” Smith said. “The number one thing I’ve learned is to never be late to work. That’s how you get fired and also to always do your job no matter what.”

He’s gained a lot of perspective as an intern. That puts one of the nation’s top football recruits in a unique position.

“It really makes me want to work hard because I really can’t sit at a desk all day,” Smith said. “Even if I have the best job ever, I guess that’s just not me. Unless I am like a CEO or a president I don’t think I can sit at a desk all day and do paperwork and be in meetings. That seems so boring.”

He wants to study business management. The 5-star pass-rush specialist would like to work one day for a company in the engineering or science industries. Smith also will enroll early in January of 2019.

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