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Georgia Football

What Will Kirby Smart Do with D'Wan Mathis and JT Daniels?

September 21, 2020


With the unprecedented times we are in, there are so many different storylines to keep up with in Georgia’s opening week of football: COVID-19 protocols, traveling differences, handling a completely altered road game atmosphere. And that’s only the surface-level stuff.


Yet, fans and media alike tend to focus on a specific aspect of a game like this—the difficulties of facing a former staff member. I get it, too. It’s logical to think that someone like Sam Pittman would have a benefit on Georgia understanding the inner workings of the program. These questions came up last year against Tennessee regarding Jim Chaney. It didn’t end up mattering at all.


The questions came up again this year. To be fair, this time it’s a head coach rather than a coordinator. Regardless, it isn’t going to matter, and Kirby Smart completely understands that.


“I don’t put a huge premium on them having been part of the program,” Smart said. “There’s not a lot of trade secrets in football. You gotta be able to block, you gotta be able to tackle… It usually boils down to what the players do on the grass.”


It really is as simple as one thing—execution. If Georgia wants to run power left, they should be able to run power left. If it wants to run power right, it should be able to run power right. Those aren’t secrets from the bowels of Georgia’s football program. It is the foundation of Kirby’s philosophy, and not only do his former staff members know it, every other coach who watches film on Georgia does, too.


Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way... 


I would be failing to do my job if I didn’t address the quarterback situation for Georgia at the moment. Kirby didn’t give any indication as to who would be the starter would be this weekend, but that was to be expected. What we do know as of right now is that if the game was today, D’Wan Mathis would be the starter since JT Daniels is yet to receive full medical clearance.


“We hope that JT will be cleared by Saturday officially,” Smart said.


You would have to think that at this point it is extremely likely that Daniels will be cleared to play on Saturday. If he is cleared, is he the one who takes that starting role? 


It’s something that almost everyone is unsure at the moment, even maybe Kirby himself. If so, we have to start asking—what is the likelihood that we see both Mathis and Daniels play early on Saturday? It wouldn’t be a foreign concept to Smart. Remember, in 2016, Both Jacob Eason and Greyson Lambert saw reps early against North Carolina. 


That system didn’t last long, but it gave Kirby the opportunity to throw both in a real game and see how they faired. We could again see a similar process with Mathis and Daniels. This isn’t a sustainable plan, and Kirby and Todd Monken know that. A concrete decision needs to be made between the two. And Saturday could help make that choice.


I’m not saying that is going to happen, but at this point, I think it should be in the discussion.


Lastly, a big point Kirby discussed today was the logistics and preparation for road games during a pandemic. On the traveling front, he made it seem like everything was normal, except for one slight caveat. 


“I don’t think the actual traveling is going to change a lot,” Smart said. “The biggest change is that everyone going on the trip will have been tested multiple times. Three times in a game week, including one possible test the day of travel… There’s not a change in how we’re traveling.” 


There is a change, however, in the atmosphere they are playing in. Arkansas has announced that it will only fill its stadium to 21-23% capacity—roughly 17,000 people. To prepare for such a new environment, the Bulldogs have been preparing in a variety of ways.


“We know what they are allowed to use in terms of decibels, and we’ve practiced with that amount,” Smart said. “We practice from time to time with music and different things on just to change it up.” 


Even with that kind of preparation, the difficulty comes with gauging the kind of impact those 17,000 fans can make. Of course, it won’t be like a normal SEC Saturday, but we all know that those nearly 20,000 Arkansas fans aren’t going to be silent come this weekend.

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