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Georgia officially signed 4-star prospect Darris Smith on Wednesday.
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Darris Smith: The 3 must-read stories about Georgia’s next great pass rush prospect

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This entry will make you want to do a cartwheel or two in regard to the dynamite athletic potential of 4-star EDGE signee Darris Smith out of Appling County High School in Southeast Georgia.

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“It is just not natural.”

That’s the phrase Appling County coach Jordan Mullis used over and over to describe 2022 Georgia football EDGE signee, Darris Smith.

“I saw him run a leg of a 4X100 last year and smoke a guy in a turn,” Mullis said. “Then I saw him as a junior get up on a fast break, run down the court, catch up with a guy and go pin the ball about two feet up over the square.”

“I was actually a little bit worried because he went down pretty hard because his head about cheek-level hit the glass.”

Take a breath. Reread that last bit about cheek-level to the glass.

About a future outside linebacker EDGE in the SEC.

“I saw him get down the court in about five steps and get up in a hurry and pin that ball about 12 feet off the ground. To the point where he collided with the backboard. You know, just seeing a guy get up and down the court like that I was like ‘Uh-huh I will be throwing him the ball down the field next year.’”

Mullis needed the span of those thoughts to share what he thought was the most athletic thing that he has ever seen Smith do.

There was a large sample size to curate from.

Smith runs track. Mullis feels that he has a good shot to win the 400 meters in Georgia Class AAA this spring.

Let’s all remind ourselves that he’s talking about 226 approximate pounds worth of pass rusher. When he was at UGA last year, he was measured in his socks at six feet and somewhere between five and three-quarters and five and seventh-eights of an inch.

There are also the vertical routes he ran as a dangerous “X” receiver in a no-huddle spread offense for a 12-2 team in 2021.

Smith also played basketball for the Pirates. He’s a high-flyer who plays above the rim.

He was a defensive end as a sophomore and a junior and then lined up as an outside linebacker in space for his senior year. He’ll be a 3-4 outside linebacker in everyone’s scheme as his career takes off.

“I feel the biggest thing with Darris and the reason he has got a chance to play football for a very long time is he has tremendous top-end speed,” Mullis said. “If he wins the AAA state track meet in the 400-meter individual race, well I think as long as he is healthy I would bet on him to win it.”

“People just don’t understand the top end, the length, the flexibility, the stride and the hip cycle. I don’t think people understand how much power he can put in the ground and run at a very very high velocity. Georgia is going to want him to report and put some weight on him and he will be a 240 or a 245-pound freshman. But the top-end speed, the athletic ability and the quick-twitch I mean all of that it is just not natural.”

4-star EDGE Darris Smith has as much untapped upside as any member of Georgia's 2022 recruiting class this year. (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

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The other great Darris Smith stories to know

Smith saw a late bump and wound up ranked as the nation’s No. 14 EDGE for 2022 and the No. 160 overall prospect in the country for 2022. That was for the 247Sports Composite scale.

There are more memorable stories here for this young man than where he was rated by the recruiting services.

The first one says a lot about the men leading the Appling County football program.

“We require government and economics and it is a split class here,” Mullis said. “Darris was struggling in that class and Darris’ parents are very very supportive of us and what we try to as coaches to get the kids out of Baxley. You don’t meet a lot of parents like that if you know what I mean.”

“I had to keep Darris at the school several nights in a row until very very late hours because I told his Dad ‘Hey listen now this isn’t one of these things we can mess around in’ and ‘this isn’t anything we can cheat on’ and ‘nothing we can do to change a grade’ because Darris has got to do this work. I mean we can help him but Darris has got to sit down and do it. This was online stuff, you know. I guess an easy [good story] would be keeping Darris up at the school until the wee hours on the morning.”

Smith would love over at his coach every 30 minutes or so. Worn down by the work.

“I was like ‘Dawg, we have got to do it or you are not going to Georgia,’” Mullis said.

Smith was a live guest on the DawgNation “Before the Hedges” show last fall. Right before the Florida game. That’s the team he will look forward to playing the most during his time between the hedges.

He put a Georgia flag up behind him. We’ve had devoted bleed for the program commitments and signees join that program over the last six years.

No one has ever put a flag. No one has ever changed their hair color for the ‘Dawgs either.

When asked why he dyed his hair red this fall, his answer was pretty simple.

“It is for Georgia,” he said. “[I’m going to be] Putting on a red helmet so I wanted it to match and everything.”

When schools tried to flip him or test the strength of his commitment, he was forthright.

“I tell some of them that I’m a Georgia fan,” Smith said on Before the Hedges. “Like I have done some of the colleges that I am a Georgia fan. Like on the phone.”

That usually shut down the recruiting pitch from rival schools.

Check out the entire Smith segment from “Hedges” embedded below.

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with UGA names like Jake Fromm, Gunner Stockon and Brock Vandagriff here.

Darris Smith: The quick-game intel on the Down South Georgia Boy

There are a lot of nuggets we’ve compiled over the last two years in which Smith has been a Georgia commitment.

  • He didn’t really want to sign during the early period by himself. When it really came down to it, he was quite happy to sign this week with the other six Appling County teammates.
  • Despite being tucked away in South Georgia, the Appling County staff has a lot of former college coaches in the building with a lot of connections. “We were able to get Darris an offer about 10 minutes after we watched him practice for the first time,” Mullis said. “It was his ninth-grade summer. You know, it kind of steamrolled from there.”
  • Mullis has a lot of college connections. When those Saturday coaches blew him up about Smith, he realized all of that stuff was moot. He was going to Georgia. “I said ‘Look guys for the first time in my career I can tell you this. Don’t call’ and ‘Don’t call because he doesn’t want to entertain it. He don’t want to hear what you are saying. He doesn’t care. As long as he can sign with Georgia, that’s where he is going.’ He didn’t go visit anywhere else. It is Georgia all the way and I think that obviously, he’s a Georgia fan but with the [transfer] portal and all this other mess I don’t think that Georgia ever had to worry about him.”
  • After a time, he eventually quit giving his number out to college recruiters when that situation kept repeating itself. “When guys came in and asked me about it, I just said he is a Georgia kid,” Mullis said. “I still believe in the old way. If a kid commits, I think he should sign there. If a kid signs a letter of intent, I think he should play there. I don’t think it is a one-year deal.”
  • Smith said that Georgia coach Kirby Smart said that his wingspan was one of the longest measurements that they had ever recorded from a recruit.
  • Georgia was always his mother Felicia’s favorite team. She is a die-hard UGA fan. He’s always liked Georgia since he was a kid, too.
  • He went to go check out Gunner Stockton and Rabun County play against rival Pierce County down in Blackshear. That was a team that Appling was going to see down the line, but he really wanted to see what his future teammate could do. “He’s tough,” Smith said, “He can run the ball. We saw him run over a linebacker. So everybody was talking about that. He obviously can throw well. He also throws the ball pretty hard.”
  • Smith said that Stockton was “legit” and he is a true “dual-threat.”
  • His father, Darris Paulk, is a longtime Alabama fan. Yet he told DawgNation last fall that Nick Saban could land all the helicopters he wanted in Appling County. Smith was still going to Georgia.
  • Smith has long and powerful arms. He can power clean approximately 340 to 350 pounds without really moving his knees.
  • He’s been a receiver, a tight end and a “Wildcat” quarterback for his Pirates. Smith was regarded as the fastest player on a 12-2 state semifinalist team in 2021. In track, he will run the 200, 400, the 4X100 and the 4X400. He’s the anchor leg.
  • Smith said he ran a PR of 48 approximate seconds at the state meet earlier in his career.
  • He said he was an athletic defender, rebounder and shot-blocker on the basketball team.
  • Mullis does feel that the common player parallel of Leonard Floyd to Smith makes a lot of sense. He also said his playing style and length were a lot like Adam Anderson, too.
  • He said back in late October that his favorite music artist was Rod Wave and his favorite subject in school was Math. Smith wasn’t sure yet about his future college major.
  • The bend is there. The first-step quickness is there. What does he need to make a quick SEC impact? The answer is to put on some weight. “I think like any kid as he goes and the competition gets better, I think it is going to be maintaining gap control and playing with better fundamentals. Hand placement. Elbows in. D-line techniques. The Pete Jenkins book of D-Line play. We teach that stuff. He’s just going to probably realize that even though he is strong and he does have all those tools he is really going to have to work on technique at that level when you are playing against the best in the country.”
  • Mullis on Smith’s conditioning work: “When I’m telling you that Darris is lean, he’s got veins coming out of his thighs, his calves, his shoulders and his abs,” Mullis said. “I think Georgia is going to put 30-40 pounds on him easy and he’s still going to be one of their fastest D-linemen. I think he’s got a chance to get out of there at 255-260 and just scream a 40 at the NFL Combine.”
  • It is believed that Smith was the first Appling County football player to ever sign with the University of Georgia. That might even be true for the SEC. Mullis feels that is the case. Especially when it comes to the Bulldogs. The Pirates have sent a handful of players to play for FSU over the years, including former All-American and 1990 first-round NFL Draft pick Dexter Carter.
  • His younger brother, Darion, already looks to be a terrific college EDGE prospect in his own right. He is a tremendous pass rusher in the 2024 class with two varsity seasons left to go. He already has offers from Georgia State, Georgia Southern and South Alabama. He’s still about three or four inches shorter than his older brother.

Check out his senior highlight films below:

Georgia officially signed 4-star prospect Darris Smith on Wednesday.
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