Georgia QB JT Daniels hints at return for 2021 season

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

ATHENS -- It was far from definitive, but JT Daniels’ Instagram post on Monday was certainly encouraging for those Georgia Bulldogs hoping he’ll be back for at least one more season.

That’d be most of them, by the way.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback from Irvine, Calif., posted a picture of himself dressed out in the Georgia locker room at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the caption “To be continued … .”

Daniels is draft eligible as a third-year college player, but indications all along have been that he would return for a second season with the Bulldogs. What Daniels displayed in just four games as Georgia’s starting quarterback definitely left them wanting more.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound transfer from Southern Cal went 4-0, completing 67 percent of his passes for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He passed for 401 yards and four touchdowns in his season debut against Mississippi State and passed for 392 yards in the team’s 24-21, come-from-behind win over No. 8 Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Friday.

Daniels’ return would be a major block for the foundation the Bulldogs are trying build for another run at the College Football Playoffs next season. Daniels is one of at least 10 Georgia underclassmen who are considered NFL draft prospects. Georgia already has seen redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari and redshirt junior cornerback Eric Stokes enter the draft.

Offensively, the Bulldogs are eager to hear from redshirt sophomore tailback Zamir White, junior tailback James Cook, redshirt sophomore receiver Kearis Jackson and junior offensive linemen Trey Hill and Jamaree Salyer. Georgia is also hopeful senior guard Justin Shaffer will return.

Defensively, coach Kirby Smart is awaiting the decisions of junior noseguard Jordan Davis and junior cornerback Tyson Campbell.

You can expect a record amount of ingress and egress on Georgia’s roster this year. As it stands now, the Bulldogs are way over the 85-scholarship maximum for the 2021 season, and that’s not counting the number of players that might elect to return under the NCAA’s blanket waiver for seniors who played during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, there are numerous high-level players already in the transfer portal that Georgia might want to add to its team. LSU tight end Arik Gilbert, an All-SEC freshman and former 5-star prospect from Marietta, is one such player that could already be en route to Athens.

Players are due to report to campus on Jan. 10 and classes begin at UGA on Jan. 13. The Bulldogs will have to have their numbers worked out by then.

Quarterback, as we saw this past year, is the one position Georgia must have settled heading into the 2021 season. Due to coaches’ indecision and knee-injury recovery precautions, Daniels did not take over as Georgia’s starting quarterback until the seventh game of the season. By it already had losses to Alabama and Florida.

After quarterback Jake Fromm turned pro as a junior last January, the Bulldogs had two quarterbacks transfer in, projected starter Jamie Newman opt out 3½ weeks before the opener, D’Wan Mathis start Game 1, Stetson Bennett start Games 2 through 6 and Mathis transfer out over the course of the season.

Bennett, who will be a fifth-year senior, plans to return in 2021. Georgia also will have redshirt freshman Carson Beck and true freshman Brock Vandagriff to compete at quarterback.

But Daniels would be as close to an undisputed starter as Georgia has had since Justin Fields elected to transfer to Ohio State after the 2018 season, leaving Fromm as the incumbent.

With both Daniels and offensive coordinator Todd Monken in the fold, and as many eight or nine returning starters back on that side of the ball, Georgia’s offense is expected to be potent in 2021.

After the Peach Bowl on Friday, Daniels sounded like he was excited about that prospect as well.

“At this point, I feel like I’ve been here for years,” he said. “Instantly, when I came in I felt a connection with the team, a connection with the way this program is. We’re all about ball. It’s something you can say about pretty much the whole team, is that everyone just loves football. We’re here to do our thing and be the best players we can be.

“Over the last 2½ months, I’ve really just enjoyed the time of being with like-minded guys that are all about work, all about ball, all about competing.”