New QB pecking order after Georgia Bulldogs’ second scrimmage

Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis (2) during the BulldogsÕ practice in Athens, Ga., on Thursday. Sept. 3, 2020. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

ATHENS – There was a new pecking order for Georgia at quarterback on Saturday, which might be more meaningful if the No. 1 guy hadn’t just left the program.

Nevertheless, indications are that sophomore JT Daniels and redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis are inching ahead of the pack as they took the first snaps with Georgia’s No. 1 offense as the Bulldogs completed their second scrimmage of the protracted preseason.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart, speaking to reporters after the 2½-hour session said that freshman Carson Beck went with the No. 2 offense, and Stetson Bennett stayed mostly with the third group. Daniels, an over-the-summer transfer from USC, also worked some with the first unit the previous Saturday. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound Mathis, about 16 months away from brain surgery to remove a cyst, is the new face with the No. 1 group.

The first string apparently performed well overall, “dominating” the No. 2 offense for the most part. But that had more to do with the other parts of the offense than the signal-callers, per Smart.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Smart, asked to assess the quarterbacks. “We had guys today that went out and practiced well. But you really want a guy to take the lead, to assume the lead, and that really hasn’t happened. A guy will have a great play or a great series and then come back with a bonehead mistake or a turnover or something.

“Nobody has really has taken charge or taken over. I wish I could say that.”

Georgia was hoping that would be Jamie Newman this season, and indications are things were trending in his direction. But then the 6-foot-4, 230-pound athlete made the somewhat abrupt decision to “opt out” of college football this year and turn his attention toward training for the NFL.

Smart revealed that Newman, who was the first under center in the first scrimmage Aug. 29, informed him Tuesday – or about three days and one practice later -- that he changed his mind about playing for the Bulldogs this fall.

Newman trains under quarterback coach Quincy Avery of Atlanta’s QB Takeover.

“We’re moving forward,” Smart said. “We respect Jamie. I respect Jamie. He’s done a tremendous job. I respect any kid who chooses to opt out.”

With several recruits looking in from Gillis Bridge atop the Sanford Stadium’s west end zone, Georgia’s defense really was the story of the day. The No. 1 unit dominated throughout the scrimmage and snatched away at least three interceptions, two of which resulted in touchdown returns.

The offense had its moments, too. Running back James Cook once again got loose from some big gains, and Zamir White drew some oohs and ahhs with a few tough inside runs on what was described by observers as a very physical practice session.

Accordingly, at least two members of Georgia’s pass-catching group came away limping. Flanker Matt Landers hobbled off the field with an upper leg injury, and tight end Tre McKitty left the scrimmage halfway through with a lower-leg injury.

Of McKitty, Smart said, “We think he’ll be fine.” The Bulldogs have to hope so as the 6-foot-5, 245-pound graduate transfer has stood out in camp and, if healthy, looks poised to nail down the starting job.

“I’ve been really pleased with Tre McKitty,” Smart shared. “He’s tough, he’s physical, he works, he blocks, he catches.”

Georgia has a lot of competition behind McKitty. John FitzPatrick, Ryland Goede and Brett Seither were next up, and the Bulldogs are trying to get 5-star freshman Darnell Washington up to speed on the offense and down on the scales.

“Darnell has been working his way into shape,” Smart said. “At one time he was at 273 (pounds). We felt like he needed to get down to about 263 to be effective. He’s a big man.”

Jermaine Burton was first on the field to replace Landers, and fellow freshman Marcus Rosemy made some nice plays for the offense.

Sophomore Tommy Bush, who’d been working in the receiver rotation, was not spotted at the scrimmage.

Undoing the offense’s good work was a lot of penalties. Georgia’s defense also was flagged often. Most of the penalties were false-start or offside.

Actually, the snap count and the quarterback’s cadence has been something the Bulldogs’ staff has been concerned about as they prepare to play in quieter venues.

“We’ve done a lot of work there, and we were not real good at it today,” Smart said. “The defense jumped offsides three or four times, and when the offense went with a hard count, it seemed like they’d jump offsides. It’s supposed to be a weapon, and today it was not a weapon. We were a glutton for punishment.”

Of course, snap counts and cadences can be an issue when using a lot of different quarterbacks. Georgia is now more than halfway through with its preseason preparations, with only 12 practices remaining for the 19 days left before the Sept. 26 opener at Arkansas.

The emphasis soon will shift from figuring out who is going to play for the Bulldogs to how there are going to play.

Settling on a No. 1 quarterback would help to that end as well. But Georgia’s not there yet.

“We don’t have a guy that’s way ahead,” Smart said. “I don’t know what to say other than we’re going to keep competing and try to find the best one.”

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