Meet Garrison Smith, the one who stayed.
A productive member on last season's Georgia defense that was loaded with seniors and three juniors who declared early for the NFL draft, Smith opted for one more year with the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-3, 297-pound defensive end from Atlanta has some grand plans for his final autumn, which include surpassing the Southeastern Conference East Division titles of the past two years.
"I want to leave a legacy as one of the all-time greatest teams to ever come through the University of Georgia," Smith said this week. "I know we're going to have a lot of young guys coming through, but with me being one of the lone seniors on the defense, I would love to go out and bring a national championship to the University of Georgia and for Athens and the whole state of Georgia.
"Just to bring the title here would be some of the greatest history ever made."
Smith became a starter midway through last season after Abry Jones suffered an ankle injury that required surgery. His infusion into the lineup coincided with the defense's strongest stretch, as the Bulldogs held Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech to an average of 8.6 points a game.
He had seven-tackle performances against Ole Miss and Georgia Southern before tallying eight against Georgia Tech.
"His whole career he's been under the wing of these veteran linemen, and all of the sudden these veterans leave and he's it," coach Mark Richt said. "He's had to be the teacher and the leader now. I think he's really tried to embrace that role. He's a guy who earned playing time when there were a lot of good veteran players because he played hard, and he's continuing to do that."
Smith, who has 82 career tackles, six lost for lost yardage, could be the only senior starter on this year's defense. The only other possibilities are outside linebackers T.J. Stripling and Chase Vasser, and Vasser is sitting out this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery in November.
Being a leader will be new for Smith, who prefers having his actions do the talking.
"I don't like to be a cheerleader or a hype man or a motivational speaker," he said. "I just try to lead by example, and I try to be a man of a great character off the field and do well in school. When I finally do have to speak, it's going to be important and it's going to be like the law when I do say it, because I really don't talk much.
"That's how I try to put my influence on the team."
Since Smith has been at Georgia, the Bulldogs have gone 6-7, 10-4 and 12-2. The Bulldogs came up 5 yards short of Alabama in last season's SEC title game, but that is the lasting memory from last year's team.
This year's script has yet to be written, but Smith is already curious.
"I think about it all the time," he said. "Naturally, we're trying to teach these guys to leave our own legacy here and make our own mark. We're not trying to live off of Herschel Walker anymore. We have Todd Gurley and all these other guys.
"We need to make our own legacy. We're trying to make something special here."
The Bulldogs continued preparations for Saturday's G-Day game Thursday with a 90-minute workout in the rain and cold. Georgia will have another short practice today.
Appearing on the injury report were receivers Malcolm Mitchell (meniscus tear), Chris Conley (hamstring strain) and Justin Scott-Wesley (chest contusion), reserve quarterback Faton Bauta (shoulder tendonitis) and freshman linebacker Ryne Rankin (ankle sprain).
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...