SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – At least one key member of the defense that propelled UGA to a national title will be returning next season.

Savannah native Nolan Smith announced on his Instagram that he plans to use his final year of eligibility instead of entering his name into the NFL Draft.

“I feel I’ve grown tremendously during my time at Georgia thus far, as both a football player and as a man,” Smith wrote on his Instagram. “I can’t express what it meant to me to bring a national championship home to Georgia. After careful consideration, I have decided to return to Georgia for my senior season and continue what we have been building.”

Smith racked up 55 tackles for the Bulldogs during the 2021-’22 season, along with 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and an interception. He recorded both the first and last sack of the Dawgs’ season – the first coming against Clemson in September and the last on the final play of UGA’s CFP National Championship victory over Alabama.

Before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida, Smith spent two years at Calvary Day, where he grew into one of the top recruits in the country.

Georgia opens its 2022 season on Saturday, Sept. 3 against the Oregon Ducks in Atlanta.