QB questions not going away with Georgia-Florida on tap

Credit: UGA

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Georgia coach Kirby Smart updates on JT Daniels condition and how team adjusts to quarterback in game.

Credit: UGA

ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart passed on the opportunity to reveal his complete quarterback plan for Saturday’s game against in Florida in Jacksonville. To take him at his word, he doesn’t even have one yet.

He did, however, answer the onslaught of questions about it at Monday’s press conference with uncharacteristic calm and patience.

This was just day one in the always intense lead-up to this annual riverside skirmish against the Gators in Northeast Florida. With the Bulldogs carrying the consensus No. 1 ranking, there likely will be even more scrutiny than usual leading up to Saturday’s game (3:30 p.m., CBS).

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Meanwhile, Smart had to leave the door open to more queries. His comments Monday indicated JT Daniels’ status will be determined by the one-time starter’s availability for and his performance in practice this week. That, of course, will be evaluated relative to what Stetson Bennett does.

“It’s going to be based on practice and no decision has been made whatsoever,” Smart said. “(Daniels) did practice Wednesday and did pretty good. Then he practiced Thursday and did well. He didn’t have pain before, during or after, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

To rehash, Daniels is dealing with a grade one strain of the latissimus dorsi muscle in his back. That has kept him from playing in the Bulldogs’ last three games. Meanwhile, the redshirt senior Bennett has played fantastic in Daniels’ absence. He has led Georgia to three straight wins by an aggregate score of 101-23, alternately contributing with strong pass games and rushing attacks.

Depending on who one talks to, it’s either a touchy situation that threatens to affect the chemistry not just of the offense but the Bulldogs’ entire locker room, or it’s merely another example of Georgia having world-class depth on its top-ranked team.

“Chemistry is very important, but I don’t typically address it with the team,” Smart said. “I don’t feel like we have a chemistry issue with either quarterback. I’ve said repeatedly, I don’t think our offensive players really pay attention to who’s back there most of the time, especially this year when there’s been a lot of interchangeable parts.”

Bennett has started four games and Daniels three to get Georgia to a 7-0 mark (5-0 SEC). Their numbers are fairly similar, with Bennett completing 69.5% of his passes for 11 touchdowns and two interception and an average of 166 yards per game. Daniels has been good on 76% of his throws for 189 yards a game with 5 TDs and 2 interceptions.

Georgia returned to work Monday after having the weekend off for the bye. Indications are Daniels is close to being cleared because his “pitch count” for number and length of throws has been steadily increased over the last two weeks. Now getting some 11-on-11 work in practice.

Smart provided media with a brief observation period during Monday’s practice. It appeared that Daniels was going first in the various passing drills. But whether anything can truly be read into that is just a guess.

Overall practice performance the next three days will determine whether Georgia goes with one quarterback or another or alternates between the two. That is apparently Florida’s plan with quarterbacks Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson.

“I’m OK with whoever is the best guy, who gives us the best chance to win,” Smart said. “That’s based on practice and health, and that will continue to be the way it is for the rest of the year.”

Here is more commentary on Georgia’s quarterbacks:

Redshirt freshman receiver Ladd McConkey on preparing with two quarterbacks …

“We’re confident in both our quarterbacks. I mean, they’ve both done a great job of preparing in the offseason and all the way to this point. So, we really are so lucky to have two quarterbacks that can compete at a high level in the SEC. So we really are thankful for that.”

Offensive tackle Warren McClendon on the difference in Bennett this year versus last ...

“Probably confidence. His confidence is there now. And having him getting all the reps and all that. We believe in him and we trust him. He’s a leader on and off the field and he knows what he’s talking about.”

McConkey on what he’s seen from Daniels the last two weeks …

“He’s coming back well. He’s kind of getting back into rhythm. He had to take that time off, so he’s coming back and kind of getting everything strengthened. He’s done a great job and stayed prepared the whole time he’s been out, too.”

McConkey on what he tells classmates when they ask about the quarterbacks …

“I tell them that’s why coaches get paid all that money. They make all the hard decisions. It’s a good thing I don’t have to. But I really feel confident either way it goes. I know both will be able to play at a high level.”

Smart on the job quarterbacks have done this season …

“Stetson has done a good job since he’s been playing and JT has done a good job when he’s played. The good thing is we feel like we’ve got, really, three or four good quarterbacks that are ready to play.”

Smart on how likely it is that both quarterbacks might play Saturday …

“Again, it’s going to depend on how they practice and what they do. Is it likely that we’ll see both of them? I don’t know. I haven’t seen practice (Monday); I’d like to see practice to know a little better about where (Daniels) is at. Based on Wednesday and Thursday, he was able to throw without pain. That’s step one. The next step is, ‘can I move, can I throw with accuracy, can I do all the things that are required to play quarterback?’ I don’t know if he can do those things yet. We’ll see by the way he practices this week.”