5 QUESTIONS WITH MAURICE SMITH
ATHENS – By all appearances, Maurice Smith’s transfer from Alabama to Georgia has been breeze. Since being granted a waiver by the SEC, he enrolled at UGA on Friday, Aug. 12, began practice with the Bulldogs on Aug. 13 and has started every game at nickelback since the season got under way on Sept. 3.
What people didn’t see was all the scrambling that was going on behind the scenes.
“That first week, I had to run here, run there,” said Smith, who hails from Sugar Land, Texas. “I didn’t get much sleep. The next week was kind of the same. I really had to find my way around campus. I had to figure out where this was, where that was. I had to get registered in different areas. And then I had to make sure I maintained my film and got in the playbook and all that. So it was a stressful first couple of weeks.”
Fortunately for both Georgia and Smith, it has worked out. Entering Saturday’s game against No. 23 Ole Miss in Oxford, Smith is fourth on the team with 13 tackles and has two pass break-ups. And his timing could not have been better. Sophomore Rico McGraw, who was slated to start before Smith’s arrival, has been battling an injury since preseason camp and has not played yet this season.
Meanwhile, though Smith already holds an undergraduate degree for Alabama, he still has academic challenges. Graduate transfer rules require a graduate student-athlete to complete a minimum of 12 class hours.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” said Smith, who is pursuing a masters in public health. “But, you know, they do a great job here of giving me the help I need and making sure that I have extra time in the Rankin (Smith Academic) Center and things like that. So it’s not really too much on my plate because there’s a lot of support around here.”
Smith is slated to get his fourth consecutive start against Ole Miss on Saturday. He is the subject of this week’s “Five Questions:”
1: What’s been the hardest thing for you showing up so late in the summer for school?
Smith: “Living off campus, parking is definitely one of the biggest extremes. At Bama, we had a student parking lot right in front of the complex. Here, you’ve really got to find your way around parking. You’ve got to do your best to find it, and then you’ve got to take the bus. It’s a lot of walking. But I stay right up the street, so I park my car and walk most of the time.”
2: Who has helped you the most find your way around campus and city of Athens?
Smith: “The defensive back group as a whole. Once I got up here and learned film, I got to know them a lot better. They just let me know, ‘here’s rec here, here’s where your classes are.’ They showed me where everything is.”
3: Did you know many of the other coaches and players before you showed up?
Smith: “I didn’t know a lot about the coaching staff, really. And I didn’t know hardly anybody on the team. Once I got here, I started to learn a lot of things about Georgia, especially the background of the school and the history of the football team and everything in that aspect. I’d never really paid attention to it before.”
4: You’ve been able to see Ole Miss up close and personal and play against them the last three years. What’s the biggest challenge?
Smith: “(Quarterback) Chad Kelly. He’s a great runner. Whenever you have a person who can do both, throw the ball accurately and then run the ball, it’s always going to be a challenge. He can throw the deep ball, he can throw against in-between type coverages, and then he can make plays scrambling. So you really have to work on scrambling drills and things like that in practice.”
5. Word is you’ve been like a coach on the field for the secondary. What has been your message?
Smith: “The same things, resiliency and just forget the last play. You may make a bad play, but it’s about the next play. Coach continuously says that and reminds us on the field. That makes a lot of difference for the players. It makes us feel like we can mess up full speed and have a chance to fix it.”