ATHENS — It didn’t take long for former West Virginia All-American tykee Smith to realize football was going to be a different world in Georgia.
“We got through there for the first few days of camp, you know how Kirby (Smart) is,” Smith said during a recent appearance on a Player’s Lounge podcast.
“We out there, we’re going to play physical here, you’re either going to punch in the mouth or you’re going to punch someone in the mouth,” he said. “So now we’re out there playing physically, the first few days of camp… and I’m like ‘damn’…. going up against some big[players]now.”
Smith is expected to play a big role for the Bulldogs this season amid a major defense reload.
Georgia had an NFL-record 15 drafts and is attempting to replace 10 starters from the unit that opened on defense against Clemson last season.
The Bulldogs are yet to dive into the NCAA transfer portal this year, but with Smith and former LSU tight end Arik Gilbert coming into play after their troubles in 2021, Georgia should get a boost.
Smith was expected to be among the starters in 2021, but a preseason foot injury meant he missed the first five games before recording three tackles in a win over Auburn.
RELATED: DB Tykee Smith’s powerful return is set to deliver the winning edge
The following week, Smith suffered a season-ending injury when he tore his cruciate ligament.
The 2022 season opens the door for Smith to the kind of season he envisioned when he left the Mountaineers’ Big 12 program after his sophomore season.
Smart let Smith know from the start that the Bulldogs feel like he’s the one for him.
“As soon as I got the email that I was on the portal, they were the first people to call me as soon as I hit tweet,” Smith recalled.
“There really wasn’t a (recruiting) pitch, I just felt like coming here and being coached by Coach Smart and the defense they run is an NFL defense so I figured it was for the best.” for me and the best for my future,” said Schmid. “And being around the players here, I thought, would allow me to play better and develop further.”
Smith said he spent a lot of time with Minnesota Vikings first-round NFL draft pick Lewis Cine and returning team captain Christopher Smith.
“This year I’m one of the veteran guys, playing college football and I have a younger group,” Smith said, “I’m just trying to make sure everyone’s straight and everyone’s communicating.”
Smith was among a handful of prospective starters recovering from various injuries this spring, although Smart said he, along with everyone else, is expected back before next season.
Georgia opens the 2022 season against Oregon on September 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
RELATED: Kirby Smart dishes on the challenges of facing Dan Lanning