Georgia The school announced on Tuesday that full-back Nolan Smith will miss the rest of the 2022 season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle. Smith will have surgery on Thursday due to the injury, which he sustained in the first half of the Bulldogs’ 42-20 win. Florida last week.
News of Smith’s diagnosis comes as the #1 Bulldog gears up for a massive SEC match on CBS Game of the Week showdown with second place Tennessee At Sanford Stadium on Saturday. Slowing down the Volunteers’ powerful offensive line would have been a challenge even with Smith, but he’d be tougher without him.
Ranked No. 24 in CBS Sports 2023 NFL Draft Odds RankingsSmith is in his fourth season as a key component of the Bulldog’s defense. Of his 18 saves this season, seven dealt with a loss, and Smith leads the team with three.
Smith was ranked 4th in the 2019 rankings by 247Sports and made an immediate impact as a freshman. Unless he chooses to take advantage of the additional year of eligibility offered after the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith will end his UGA career with 110 tackles, 20 stoppages, 12.5 sacks and an interception.
Options to move to the starting role
The Bulldogs have options behind Smith, who was running the “SAM” quarterback. Although M.J. Sherman is listed behind Smith in the depth chart, The Apprentice is just one of several highly-promoted former leads that Smart mentioned as potential candidates to fill in for Smith. The others are Robert Peel, Marvin Jones Jr., and Chazz Chambliss.
Bale is a top red jersey player with nine tackles this season and 56 during his career. He scored a season-high 51 times against Florida amid Smith’s injury. Chambliss, a sophomore and former four-star, has five tackles this season and 1.5 sacks.
Another option is five-star real-time freshman Marvin Jones Jr., who was named third best player in the 2022 signing class in Georgia which ranked third nationally in the 247 Sports Team Rankings. Jones has only had two stops so far this season, but he’s not a red jersey candidate, and his illness put him out of the game against Florida.
Smith leaves leadership void
Even if a single player or a committee of them could replace Smith’s production, replacing his leadership wouldn’t be so easy. In a defense that was recovering from losing eight NFL Draft picks from last season’s lineup 15-0, Smith was a veteran voiceover.
“Nolan is a natural leader,” Smart said this week. “He’s been that way ever since I met him when he was in eighth grade and he came up here to camp. He’s been a natural leader,” Smart said last Tuesday. “His leadership is more important than his ability, and his ability is so powerful. He creates a solidity in terms of people accepting the standards of the way you hit the blocks, the way you approach the counters, the way you speed up with effort, special teams, I mean, he plays in all the special teams. He’s Just a key player.”
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