Sources: Georgia LB Smith out rest of season

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith, the No. 1-ranked Bulldogs’ leading pass-rusher this season, will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, sources confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday.

Smith, a senior from Savannah, Georgia, was hurt in the first half of the Bulldogs’ 42-20 victory against Florida and didn’t return.

Smith leads the Bulldogs with 3 sacks, 7 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hurries.

On3 was first to report the news of Smith’s season-ending injury.

Smith is considered a potential first-round selection in the 2023 NFL draft. Sources told ESPN on Tuesday that it’s unclear whether he’ll be ready to fully participate in the NFL combine, scheduled for Feb. 28 to March 6 in Indianapolis. The injury typically requires a recovery of three to four months, so Smith probably wouldn’t have sufficient time to train for the combine.

If Smith isn’t able to fully perform at the NFL combine, he would probably work out for NFL teams later in the draft process.

Without Smith, Georgia will have to look for other ways to pressure Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who has thrown for 2,338 yards with 21 touchdowns and one interception this season. The Volunteers lead the FBS in scoring (49.4 points) and total offense (553 yards) and are second in passing (353.4 yards).

Last week, coach Kirby Smart commended Smith for his leadership and toughness.

“Nolan is a natural leader,” Smart said. “He’s been that way since I met him when he was in eighth grade and he came up here to camp. He’s been a natural leader. His leadership is more important than his ability, and his ability is pretty strong. He creates a toughness about the way he holds people to a standard of the way you strike blocks, the way you close on counters, the way you rush with effort, special teams, I mean, he plays on all special teams. He’s just a core guy.”

Sophomore Chaz Chambliss played well against Florida in Smith’s absence, finishing with 3 tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss. He had been bothered by a hamstring injury, and Smart said he was still dealing with it after the Florida game. Freshman Marvin Jones Jr., who had the flu last week, also might get increased playing time in Smith’s absence.

Georgia’s defense ranks No. 2 in the FBS in scoring, allowing only 10.5 points per game, but it had struggled to sack the quarterback until the Florida game. The return of junior defensive tackle Jalen Carter, who had been sidelined for two games with a knee injury, was a big reason why.

“He looked better than I thought,” Smart said. “I hope we’ll be able to have him at full speed.”

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