Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at defensive end Garrison Smith.
No. 56 Garrison Smith
55 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack
Role in 2012: Smith joined the starting lineup when an injury knocked Abry Jones from the lineup for the rest of the regular season and the junior wound up leading the defensive linemen in tackles.
The good: Smith built off a strong effort last season against Georgia Tech, when he came off the bench after DeAngelo Tyson was injured and played well in his first extensive playing time, by developing into one of Georgia’s top defensive linemen in 2012. Jones played a similar role last season, rarely racking up huge tackle or sack totals, but holding the point so teammates could make plays, which is essential to the defense’s success.
The bad: It would be interesting to see what kind of numbers Smith could have accumulated in a full season as a starter. The situation is understandable -- Georgia had experienced seniors across the board on the defensive line, and Jones was a preseason All-SEC pick -- but Smith fared well as both a reserve and in his seven starts.
Crystal ball: Smith recently said that he plans to return for his senior season, so he should be one of the known quantities within a group that must replace a ton of experience. If he and fellow junior Kwame Geathers return next season, the Bulldogs will be in great shape up front. But either way, Smith will probably be on some preseason all-conference lists and projects as a strong performer in 2013.