HOOVER, Ala. — Sidelined with a shoulder injury for spring practice, junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith spent a lot of time watching — and learning.
He conditioned. Got some mental reps. Walked through what he could. He led, but in a different way.
“He wanted to be out there leading. He wanted to be part of that defense,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Due to a shoulder injury, he wasn’t able to do that but he was in every meeting. He was at every practice. He got behind the offense, took his footwork steps. He’s a unique kid that I think is really special.”
Especially on the field. Smith led Georgia with 95 tackles (52 solo, 43 assist).
It was a big jump for Smith, who had 20 total tackles as a freshman. And that Smart tabbed him as the defensive representative for SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday shows Smith has emerged in ways that aren’t measured in statistics.
“If you’re going to be a spokesperson for the team, you better hold yourself accountable for all the actions we demand as coaches and he’s done that,” Smart said. “When you’re the signal caller, the guy that makes the calls, you’ve got to be the guy that demands respect from the others.”
Smith, an economics major that Smart said carries a 3.0 GPA, understands that — he talked about it on Tuesday.
“I think it’s crucial once we bring in new guys, our older guys in the room, we take those younger guys under our wings, teach them the ropes, help them with the playbook and different things like that,” Smith said. “It’s an amazing opportunity for us older guys to be able to mentor some of those guys.”
And there is a bit of experience in that room. Georgia returns 10 defensive starters.
“We don’t listen to all the hype and what not so we’re just committed to grinding each day and making each day the best day,” Smith said. “We just feel like we can do something special not just us but as a defense as well.”