ATHENS -- Garrison Smith is in a category by himself on the Georgia defense. He is not a senior on his way out the door. He is also not a junior contemplating the NFL draft.
As things stand now, Smith has a chance to be the only senior who starts on a young Bulldogs defense in 2013. And that means he should finally get a chance to show what he can do in a full season.
Smith is finishing this season as the starter at defensive end, but he was sharing duty at the beginning of this season. He might not have racked up the sacks -- he has just one -- but he does have 55 tackles, and his status as a starter has coincided with the defense getting its stuff together during the latter half of this season.
Garrison really came along, really improved, stepped his game up to another level. (Im) very encouraged, said Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who can be stingy with praise.
Georgia is set to lose seven seniors who have started at least two games on defense this season. Two more juniors (Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree) are likely to declare for the NFL, and another (junior nose tackle Kwame Geathers) said hes considering it.
But Smith took the draft off the table very quickly. It seems a smart call, as he wasnt likely to be picked high after this year. But his value could increase after next season if he can turn the consistent playing time into better game film and stats.
Im a team guy. Thats part of the reason that Im coming back, Smith said. Because I think we can do great things. I would hate to see this program without any defensive linemen with any experience. And I just wanna help this team as much as I can.
And in the 3-4 system, that may not mean too much in the way of sacks.
If thats taking on the blocks with the double teams, Ill do it, Smith said. Its not about personal glory, individual glory, because its a team thing. Thats all Im concerned about. If I dont get the stats, hopefully an NFL team, theyll understand. But Im not worried about the NFL. If its gonna happen, thats gonna happen. All I can do right now is play hard for Georgia.
Smith (listed at 6-foot-3 and 297 pounds) compares to DeAngelo Tyson, the former Georgia end who was a seventh-round pick in last Aprils draft. Smith actually replaced Tyson for the final two games of last year and was expected to keep the starting role this year, only to have Georgia go with both nose tackles for the first seven games. It took a knee injury to defensive end Abry Jones for Smith to get the starter role back.
Interestingly, Smith blanches at the comparison to Tyson.
Im built like him, but I think were two different players. I dont think I really play like him, Smith said. I dont even know who I can compare myself to. Im really just a try-hard guy. I try to go as hard as I can.
Garner does think there is a Tyson comparison. When told Smith said he was a different player than Tyson, Garner looked confused.
In what way? Garner asked. I mean, they are similar. Theyre both compact, quick-twitch, quick-fiber guys. I could see where there could be some similarities. I dont know where he says the drastic difference is.
The similarity is that Tyson was a key member of the defense who never really got much statistical credit for it. Smith appears fine with that fate, as well.
I just try to play as hard as I can and try to make plays when I can, he said. Thats what I try to bring: My effort. Thats what I know I can bring, for sure.