Garrison Smith of Atlanta was in fourth grade the first time he met Mark Richt. Georgia’s head coach headed a camp Smith attended and made a big impression on the future star recruit.
Four years later, Smith attended another camp led by Richt, and the experience was so profound that Smith said it was a crucial step in preparing for his high school career.
Now, four years later, Smith is about to spend more time with Richt as one of the crown jewels of the Bulldogs’ 2010 recruiting class.
“It’s a very weird feeling,” Smith said. “I never would have thought this would happen in my wildest dreams. It’s crazy how things work out.”
With so much history tying the 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive tackle to Georgia, the past few months of chaos among the Bulldogs’ coaching staff and shakeups in defensive scheme haven’t shaken his desire to spend the next four years in Athens.
For months there months, there were rumors of changes on the coaching staff. Once those changes came, six long weeks passed before new coaches were hired. When Todd Grantham finally came on board, he brought with him a new scheme that drastically will alter the defensive line.
None of it worried Smith.
“I always put my trust in Coach Richt from day one,” Smith said. “He’s a good guy; he did all the right things. He said that’s how he was going to make his decision. I believed he’d make the right decision, and, no matter what scheme you’re running, you’ve still got to play football.”
This kind of a transition isn’t new to Smith. During his senior season at Douglass, his team switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4, just as Georgia is doing now. It didn’t hurt Smith’s production.
Smith said he doubts Georgia’s front seven scheme will match the scheme at Douglass, but it does provide confidence that he can step in quickly after he arrives in Athens.
Grantham provided even more confidence, Smith said. Their initial conversations left Smith excited about what the future might have in store.
“He knows what he’s talking about, he’s ready to coach us up, he’s ready to put us in the best position to win,” Smith said of his new defensive coordinator. “He’s real excited being around these college guys.”
It’s an excitement Smith shares, and despite all the recent chaos, his future appears bright. But he also has learned not to take anything for granted.
“The sky is the limit,” Smith said. “It’s all going to depend on how hard I work, so that’s all I can do.”