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Georgia Football

Unraveling Georgia’s quarterback situation ahead of Saturday

October 2, 2020

ATHENS - The first half of the Arkansas game was bad. Georgia somehow covered the spread in a second half rout. 

Okay, that’s out of the way.

Friday has arrived and Kirby Smart has yet to name the starting quarterback for Georgia’s primetime game against Auburn. 

This is not surprising. Smart tends to wait until the last minute to announce to the world who will be starting under center. In fact, it was still somewhat of a mystery last week up until the first series for the Bulldogs, even though most people assumed that it would indeed be D’Wan Mathis.

So, it’s the status quo so far in that regard for Georgia. It is time to dive in.

Mathis struggled. He finished with just 55 yards and completed only 47% of his passes. He also threw an errant interception in the red zone. 

It wasn’t pretty, but he is still a very raw and talented quarterback that earned the job for a reason. What must be remembered is his lack of experience and the situation. That was his collegiate game and it came in an offseason where there was limited time to prepare and Georgia is trying to put together a new offense. 

That being said, the fans expected more. Saying that the coaches expected more is probably not much of a reach. 

Smart does not put all of the blame on Mathis for his performance. "It's not his fault a play got called back for holding. It's not his fault a guy missed a pick up on third down -- and he almost turned that into a first down,” Smart said. 

Again, context is important, but Mathis did not seem to be ready for the moment. 

Then came Stetson Bennett IV in the second quarter. Georgia still struggled. He managed to get them in field goal range, and Jack Podlensy scored three points for the Bulldogs. That field goal just felt important.

It was not quite as important as the Rodrigo Blankenship field goal going into halftime against Oklahoma important but still vital.

Bennett played well in the second half. Smart was pleased.

“He has played a lot of football. He had good composure, he handled the pocket well, he handled the protections well,” he said.

211 yards and 2 touchdowns is not bad. Bennett did enough for Georgia to handle Arkansas in the second half. As expected, the defense was stout.

Picking between those two was already an issue. There is Mathis, who is super talented, but he is not developed yet. Then, there is Bennett, who got the job done in relief of Mathis.

Here is the wrinkle.

On Monday, Smart told the media that JT Daniels is now cleared for game action. 

Daniels announced his transfer to Georgia in May, and was the assumed backup to Jamie Newman, but all of that is out the window now. 

Daniels tore his ACL in the season opener for USC last year. He has not played football since. He has been practicing, but he has not been ready for game action.

In terms of their high school play, Daniels was the most impressive. According to 247Sports, Daniels was ranked only behind Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields in the 2018 recruiting cycle. Not bad.

While his freshman season at USC was not eye-opening, he showed flashes of potential.

“He gets the ball out really quick. He's got a quick release and great arm talent,” Smart said.

Kirby Smart and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken went after Daniels, even after they already secured Newman. This could mean that Daniels is the guy Monken wants running his offense. However, it could also just indicate that Smart wanted to load the quarterback room.

Whether it is one of those things or a combination of the two, Daniels is cleared to play now. 

Many people are assuming he will get the start against the Tigers in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. If he does then wow, welcome to the SEC. 

Don’t count out Bennett or even Mathis. The assumption may be Daniels, but Smart said he needs to prove himself.

“We will be looking at everybody across the board. JT has got to be able to show us that he can function efficiently and do it with his knee being able to do it,” he said.

This may just be coach speak, but it brings us to another game where nobody is really certain on who is going to get the start. 

What is certain is that Georgia’s offensive line is still developing and Auburn’s defense has always been well coached under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. 

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