ATHENS — Kirby Smart is known best as a defensive coach, having recruited, developed, coordinated and coached some of the best units in recent history.
The Georgia head coach saw his masterpiece, the 2021 unit coordinated by former DC and current Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, shattering NFL records.
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There were an unprecedented five first-round NFL draft picks and eight defensive players selected out of the record-breaking class of 15 draftees.
UGA produced the Outland Trophy and Bednarik Award winner in team leader Jordan Davis, while linebacker Nakobe Dean captured the prestigious Butkus Award.
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The 2022 season looks like a heckuva reload, but Smart has been talking tough, not allowing for any excuses as Georgia pursues what would be its first SEC championship since 2017.
Like any other team, the Bulldogs have questions to answer, and it starts up front where UGA lost three first-round picks.
Nolan Smith hype
Smith arrived at Georgia rated the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation, but he wasn’t able to find his way on the field much as a true freshman.
Smith finally broke through last season and performed relatively well with 56 tackles (fifth on the team) and 3.5 sacks (sixth on the team).
Now back for another season, Smith is expected to up his game and be more productive with his numbers. It’s a team game, but Smith plays a productive position that should equal higher sack numbers.
Lots of newnesses here with first-round pick Quay Walker and third-round picks Channing Tindall and Dean moved on to the NFL.
Fifth-year senior and returning sacks leader Robert Beal is back, but the middle linebacker position features a rising star in the form of Jamon Dumas-Johnson, perhaps the best Georgia player the rival fans do not yet know.
Smart has shown before, however, that he will start a true freshman leaving some hope for incoming players Jaheim Singletary, Julian Humphrey and Marcus Washington Jr. to press for playing time.