Roquan Smith makes his move, a receiver shines, and more

Roquan Smith is expected to be a major contributor at inside linebacker as a sophomore this coming season. AJC / JOSHUA L. JONES

ATHENS – Roquan Smith was out for almost all of spring practice, costing him a chance to move up the depth chart. He only needed a few weeks of preseason practice to catch up.

Smith, the sophomore from Macon County, has moved into what is essentially a co-starter spot at inside linebacker. He’s been working first-team inside linebacker this week, alongside fellow sophomore Natrez Patrick, with junior Reggie Carter working some second team.

Head coach Kirby Smart said not to look too much into it, saying all three are on the same level.

“We’re trying to find five guys who can play at that position. We’re comfortable with three,” Smart said. “I don’t look at it as Roquan’s a starter, Natrez is a starter, Reggie is a starter. They’re all starters. They all have to play for us.”

Smith didn’t play very much last year, and then had wrist surgery before the spring. But the one-time top 100 national recruit has had a standout preseason, including an interception for a touchdown in the first scrimmage.

As for the attempt to make it a five-man rotation, converted safety Rashad Roundtree and Juwan Taylor were the next two players Smart mentioned. But so far they haven’t solidified a role.

“So many of these teams we play (against) play fast, so you’ve got to be able to play a lot of guys,” Smart said.

AT LEAST ONE STANDOUT

Smart hasn’t singled out many players by name this preseason. But one player has earned some recognition after both scrimmages.

Senior receiver Reggie Davis was singled out by Smart – for a second straight week – for making a play.

Davis has 29 catches and 507 yards in his three years at Georgia, with 98 of those yards coming on a touchdown catch his freshman year. He’s also excelled on special teams, returning a punt for a touchdown last year. But while he started seven games last year at receiver, he’s never been able to break through into a consistent receiving role.

“He’s had a good camp,” Smart said. “Reggie’s an experience receiver. He’s got a good burst. He’s playing really hard. He’s playing good on special teams. Reggie plays the game the right way, and you appreciate that. And quarterbacks reward guys that play the right way.”

MO SMITH UPDATE

After a week on the Georgia football team, Maurice Smith is fitting in well on defense, but having an adjustment elsewhere.

Smith was a special teams standout at Alabama, so the Bulldogs are trying to see what he can do there. Unlike the defensive scheme, there are differences at Georgia. Special teams coordinator Shane Beamer joined the team from Virginia Tech.

UGA defensive back Maurice Smith (2) runs a drill in the rain before Saturday’s scrimmage. (Joshua L. Jones/Special)

“He’s picked up the (defensive) scheme well,” Smart said. “Probably the toughest transition for him is special teams, because things aren’t exactly the same.”

Smith and Rico McGraw continue to work at nickel back, with McGraw shifting to safety because of starter Quincy Mauger’s ankle injury. Smith is also getting some work at cornerback.

“He’s picking up the defense really easily and being able to communicate with the other players,” Smart said of Smith.

THREE MEN, TWO STARTING SPOTS

Smart confirmed that the offensive line has three players – tackle Tyler Catalina and guards Dyshon Sims and Lamont Gaillard – competing for two starting spots.

All three are rotating right now: When Catalina plays left tackle, Isaiah Wynn shifts to left guard, and Sims and Gaillard trade off at right guard. When Catalina exits the lineup, Wynn goes to left tackle, Sims is at left guard and Gaillard at right guard.

Smart said “there’s nothing settled” but likes what Catalina, Sims and Gaillard are all doing.

“Those three are all playing what we consider to be winning football, and they’re battling it out,” Smart said.

INJURY UPDATES

– Sophomore cornerback Juwuan Briscoe scrimmaged despite a shoulder injury, which caused him to wear a black non-contact jersey. Briscoe has been getting first-team snaps at cornerback, along with Malkom Parrish.

– Mauger (ankle) did not scrimmage, though he was in uniform and went through individual drills.

– Freshman tight end Charlie Woerner (ankle) also did not scrimmage, though he was in uniform.

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