ATHENS — Now comes the hard part.
Maurice Smith is officially a Georgia Bulldog, down to the red and black uniform and the number 2 jersey he was wearing Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The hard part, some might say, is over.
But it could also be said it’s just beginning.
Smith and the Bulldogs went to considerable trouble to see that Smith’s desire to transfer to UGA from Alabama was fully sanctioned and approved. That required paperwork and appeals and deliberations and statements.
But now, Smith has to suit up and show he deserves to be on the field rather than somebody else. And coach Kirby Smart admitted Saturday that they’re not exactly sure where Smith fits in at this point.
“We don’t know the answer to that just yet,” Smart said following Saturday’s scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
Unfortunately, the 6-foot, 200-pound defensive back couldn’t jump in there and show the Bulldogs much about what he could do on the field Saturday. Seeing how he literally stepped off a plane from Houston Friday and was in a Georgia uniform less than 24 hours later, Smith appropriately was on the first day of a three-day acclimation period.
But he was able to run around with his new defensive backfield mates and run through drills and formation work, all of which is extremely familiar to him. Everything Georgia is doing now on defense Smith has been doing the last three years with Smart and last year with Mel Tucker at Alabama.
“I think that helps Maurice. I think Maurice is comfortable in the system,” Smart said. “He knows a lot of the verbiage and vocabulary and it’s easy for him to pick up on. Certainly everything is not the same, so he’s got to get caught up to speed on that. He also has to get up to speed on football shape. He’s only been working out and hasn’t had pads on and out in the heat, so we’ve got to work on that.”
And it’s not just about whether Smith is better than any of his new teammates. They need to be accepting of whatever role he assumes, and that’s not always an automatic, especially when someone parachutes in exactly three weeks before the season opener.
“I was real positive with the team; I was excited,” Smart said of the meeting in which he shared the news. “A lot of the players excited for him. They know that Maurice Smith makes us a better football team. It was very positive. They were very receptive to him.”
It’s a tough call about where Smith might help most. At Alabama he was primarily a nickelback and safety. But Georgia, which is pretty solid in the secondary overall, isn’t necessarily deficient in either area. Dominick Sanders and Quincy Mauger are both solid at the safety position. And the Bulldogs have been pleased with the play of Rico McGraw at their nickelback position, known as “star.”
One area where it appears there has been some unsettled competition at boundary corner. Senior Aaron Davis, sophomore Juwuan Briscoe and others have all been getting snaps there, but the lineup never seems solidified.
Smith, we have been told, can play some corner. He was rated the No. 9 cornerback in the country when he signed with Alabama out of Dulles High in Sugar Land, Texas.
“Maurice is going to come in and compete and work his tail off, which he has always done,” Smart said. “That’s all he’s ever done, is work for what he’s gotten. He’s going to have to do the same thing here.”
You certainly can never have enough defensive backs, and certainly not ones that earned their undergraduate degree in three years and already know your system. Hopefully the kid can play.