Georgia inside linebacker Smael Mondon missed out on a golden opportunity to shine this spring, as labrum surgery delayed what could be his chance to earn a starting role. Entering fall camp, plenty of eyes are on Mondon, someone his head coach and his teammates believe can be a difference maker when it’s all said and done.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart spoke highly of Mondon on Thursday as the Bulldogs prepared to get fall camp started later in the day. Smart commended the former five-star recruit for what he brings to the field, although the sophomore still has room for improvement.
“Excited about the guys that we have at inside ‘backer. I was excited about those guys last year. They didn’t get an opportunity to flash and show their talents because of the three guys we had,” Smart said, referring to Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker spirit Channing Tindall. “But Smael Mondon is as good an athlete as I’ve seen. He has to increase his physicality, his toughness. He missed spring because of a shoulder surgery. But he’s put on some good, solid weight.”
Mondon was just a true freshman last season but flashed in the opportunities he was given.
Mondon played in all 15 games as a reserve in 2021 and ended the season with 12 tackles — including a career-best 4 tackles against Charleston Southern — along with 1 sack. Mondon was seen as a prime candidate to step up in the spring to fill one of the roles vacated by the three Georgia inside linebackers drafted in April, but surgery left him on the mend.
In Mondon’s absence, Jamon Dumas-Johnson emerged as a legitimate option to start inside. The Bulldogs relied on other options to get through the spring, which included Trezmen Marshall, Ryan Davis, Xavian Sorey spirit Jalon Walker.
Although Mondon was unable to practice with his teammates in March and April, several of them have seen what he brings to the table.
Georgia safety Christopher Smith characterized Mondon as a prototypical inside linebacker and as someone inside linebacker’s coach Glenn Schumann like. When describing Mondon’s game, the veteran Smith credited him with being a sideline-to-sideline player who is physically gifted and is also smart, strong and able to understand the Bulldogs’ playbook.
While Smith said there wasn’t one specific play that comes to mind when it comes to Mondon, he made it obvious that Smart’s claim about Mondon’s athleticism is not unfounded.
“I’ve just seen plenty of times where, like, I’ll be running, and Smael just flies across my face and makes a play,” Smith said. “[They’re] pretty consistent — Channing, Quay, Nakobe, Jamon, all those guys can do those things.”
Mondon has shown flashes in the past of the kind of linebacker he can be for the Bulldogs, but he still has to prove himself on a consistent basis. That sentiment was shared by defensive tackle Zion Loguewho acknowledged Mondon has no shortage of talent and is someone he wants to see more from.
“He wasn’t very active this spring, so I’m really ready to see what he can do this fall as [far as] being vocal — being that guy who comes downhill, fills the gaps. He can drop in coverage,” Logue said. “I’m ready to see what he can do.”