Hype and anticipation surround essentially every prospect that signs with the University of Georgia at this point, but there are certain players in every class that experience rather lofty expectations. Especially if you're the No. 1 player in America coming out of high school.
That was edge defender Nolan Smith entering Georgia. The consensus top-ranked prospect in the 2019 signing class, Smith entered college with Georgia's fan base expecting greatness. However, after two seasons of playing in a backup role for the Bulldogs, Smith has only 5.0 sacks.
Granted, most of Smith's lack of production can be attributed to a lack of considerable playing time. He played second fiddle to the likes of NFL second-rounder Azeez Ojulari for the better part of two seasons. In 2021, he will have his time in the limelight at the JACK position for the first time in his career.
Pro Football Focus has raised some questions about the development of Nolan Smith's game from a technical standpoint.
"Smith came to Georgia as a raw athlete, and after two years with the Dawgs, he’s pretty much no different. His lateral agility and explosiveness are rare, but he has yet to show any technical refinement in his game. He has only three single-game pass-rush grades above 70.0 in his limited time on the field, one of which came against Murray State in 2019 when he solely worked speed-to-power and obliterated his lesser opponent. He owns a 67.6 pass-rush grade against SEC offensive lines to this point. - PFF.com's Anthony Treash
Some of the things that Smith does on the field for Georgia can be often overlooked, especially if only the box score is studied.
Smith plays with impeccable pad level and despite his less than ideal size for an edge defender, holds his ground well against power running plays in the SEC. He will have his opportunity this season to get upfield and after the quarterback on passing downs. With Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Jalen Carter on the interior of the Georgia defensive line, Smith should see his fair share of one-on-one opportunities.
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