2022 Georgia football profile: Linebacker Nolan Smith

Nolan Smith. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Nolan Smith. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Georgia football linebacker Nolan Smith played a significant role last season in the Dawgs’ national championship run. His decision to return for his fourth year in Red and Black could be huge for Georgia’s defense and his own draft stock.

Smith was the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2019 recruiting class and possessed the freakish athletic ability for his position. He has contributed to the Dawgs since stepping foot on campus but didn’t take the big step in his production until last year.

He accounted for 53 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Fans know him best from his sack of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young to seal the national championship and put the Tide to sleep.

After such a productive season, it wasn’t out of the question for Smith to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. Fortunately for Georgia, he decided to return to hopefully further improve his draft stock.

Georgia football linebacker Nolan Smith is on track for a monstrous final season.

It can be challenging to live up to the expectations of being the country’s top-rated prospect, especially on a team with elite talent at every position. With so much of Georgia’s production from last season gone, Smith will have the opportunity to have a big year and solidify himself as a top draft pick.

Let’s look at what Smith brings to the Dawgs’ defense in 2022.


Smith’s all-around athleticism is one of his key attributes, possessing impressive speed and quickness along with solid strength and power. His burst off the line of scrimmage allows him to gain positioning against opposing linemen, and his use of leverage to fight off blocks is exceptional.

He has proven quite proficient as a run stopper for the Dawgs. His awareness in the run game, combined with his athletic abilities, allows him to diagnose run plays and contribute to making a stop fluidly. He is versatile enough to be deployed as a run stopper, sent after the quarterback as a pass rusher, or dropped into coverage occasionally.


Given his athletic profile coming out of high school, Smith’s biggest need for improvement is his pass rushing, which is a bit ironic. His burst off the line and solid agility give him the tools of a productive edge rusher, but he is still a bit raw in that area of his game and should benefit from the extra year of development at Georgia.

Smith’s upside as an edge rusher is too great to ignore, but he needs some fine-tuning in terms of his moves and using his hands against blockers. Improving that will round him out as a defender and appeal mightily to NFL scouts.

Video Highlights of Nolan Smith

2022 Season Prediction for Nolan Smith

A solid senior season could vault Smith into the first round when the NFL Draft rolls around. He showed significant improvements last season as he made a jump in productivity and the overall role played for the Georgia defense.

With so much of the talent from last year’s historic defense gone, Smith will have a chance to be the veteran linebacker that the team rallies around. Expect him to be responsible for 60 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and six sacks.

The Dawgs will need guys like Smith to step up defensively to replace those who left for the NFL. If he can keep building on his success last season and take another step forward in 2022, he could surpass those numbers on his way to a first-round selection.

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Smith returned for another year to further develop and prove he is worth being selected early in the draft. Fans should be excited to watch his game come together as a senior.