The Transfer QB from USC Shines In His Highly Anticipated Debut
Credit: Curtis Compton / firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgia may be known as Running Back University, but Zamir White and the Bulldogs’ backs did not impress this past weekend against Mississippi State. No Georgia player averaged more than two yards per carry on Saturday, and White finished the contest as the team’s leading rusher despite only earning a measly 21 yards in his 11 attempts.
In fact, as the Mississippi State front six stood their ground Georgia only netted a disappointing eight net rushing yards. Normally, a poor performance on behalf of the running backs would result in a loss for a Georgia team that has lacked an elite quarterback this season.
However, all that changed when JT Daniels started under center against Mississippi State. Daniels was electric in his first start since suffering a season ending ACL injury in the first game of the 2019 season. The USC transfer made a strong first impression as he tossed four touchdowns while amassing over 400 passing yards as he lead Georgia past Mississippi State 31-24.
It has been awhile since Georgia has had a true gunslinger under center. Aaron Murray was the last Bulldog to pass for over 400 yards and four touchdowns, all the way back in 2013. To see Daniels amass numbers like this in his first start in a promising sign for the redshirt sophomore.
Despite their individual accomplishments, the likes of Greyson Lambert, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, and Joe Cox simply do not compare to the more elite Georgia quarterbacks such as Murray or Matthew Stafford. Hopefully, Daniels stellar performance on Saturday was an early indicator that he might join the latter group as one of the best quarterbacks to pass through Athens in in the last two decades.
Giving Daniels the keys to the offence was undoubtedly the right call, yet many Georgia fans feel that it was too little too late after the losses to Alabama and Florida. In the post game press conference on Saturday, Smart defended his decision to keep Daniels on the bench in favor of Stetson Bennett and D’Wan Mathis.
In defending his decision to leave Daniels on the bench until the seventh game of the year, Smart cited Bennett’s strong play at the beginning of the season as well as the mobility of Daniel’s knee as he was in the final stages of rehab.
In the End, Smart made the smart call; rushing Daniels back onto the field too early could have resulted in reinjury, and it could have appeared as if Georgia had little regard for player safety. Smart and the coaching staff were simply doing their due diligence in protecting their quarterback’s future by ensuring Daniels' was at 100% before returning.
While Daniels could have turned the tide in the losses against Alabama or Florida, it was not worth risking the health or future of the redshirt sophomore. Because expected Wake Forest transfer Jaimie Newman opted out of the season, Stetson Bennett was left to take the majority of snaps under center with Mathis seeing some playing time as well.
It’s unfortunate that Daniels could not help the Bulldogs in their 2 losses this season. However, Kirby Smart is betting that the redshirt sophomore QB will continue to be a key aspect of the team’s offense for the next two seasons.
Daniels' first start as a Bulldog was one to remember, and hopefully an indication of a bright future for the young playcaller.