ATHENS – Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has been cleared to play against Auburn on Saturday, coach Kirby Smart said. Whether he does will come down to how well he competes with the Bulldogs' other three quarterbacks in practice this week.
“I don’t know how much that changes the picture in terms of reps and development,” Smart said Monday during his weekly video news conference. “We’ll be looking at everybody across the board. JT’s got to be able to show us that he can function efficiently and do it with his knee. We always felt he’d be cleared by this time anyway, but those guys will all compete, as well as Carson (Beck), too.”
Daniels traveled with the Bulldogs to Arkansas this past weekend and dressed out but did not play because of the knee injury he suffered 13 months ago at Southern Cal. Redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis started against the Razorbacks, but the offense was ineffective on the first six series of the game.
Mathis was relieved by redshirt junior Stetson Bennett at the 10:07 mark of the second quarter. Bennett completed 20-of-29 passes for 211 yards and rushed for another 20 yards on five carries to spark the Bulldogs to a 37-10 come-from-behind victory.
But that wasn’t enough to spur Smart to name Bennett the starter for Saturday’s Top 10 matchup at Sanford Stadium. The Tigers (1-0) come in with a No. 7 national ranking after scoring 29-13 win over Kentucky in their home opener this past Saturday.
No. 4 Georgia was trailing Arkansas, winless in the SEC since 2017, 7-2 when Bennett took over for Mathis. He led the Bulldogs on a 59-yard drive for a field goal in the final minute of the first half, then three straight touchdown drives spanning the third and fourth quarters.
Matthis went 8-of-17 passing for 55 yards with an interception. With the game in hand, he came back in the fourth quarter and led the Bulldogs on a late field-goal-scoring drive.
“D’Wan did not play as bad as it seemed to some,” Smart said. “I thought he did some good things watching the tape. He had some unfortunate bad breaks that happened while he was in at quarterback.”
Beck is a 4-star signee and early enrollee of from Jacksonville, Fla.
Daniels is the most experienced of all the quarterbacks. He had 742 career snaps and 12 starts at Southern Cal before transferring to Georgia over the summer. He lost his starting job with the Trojans after tearing the ACL in his right knee in the second quarter of the season opener against Fresno State.
Smart revealed two weeks ago that Daniels had to have a second procedure on his knee. However, the California native has continued to practice with the Bulldogs throughout the preseason and into this week. He simply needed to pass certain physical thresholds from weekly tests administered by UGA’s medical staff to be cleared to play in a game.
“They have been looking for certain barometers to be able to hit that number and he was able to do that,” Smart said. “That’s very fortunate for him, but he still has to be able to go out there and prove to us that he can do it in the game-like situations and the practice-like situations. That’s not easy to do during the week at times.
“All I can tell you is we’re going to continue to work with all the guys we’ve got to put the best guy in there to give us the best opportunity to win the football game,” Smart said.
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