Spring preview: Will Georgia offense be transformed under QB JT Daniels?

Credit: AJC

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Here's a quick look at JT Daniels' stats during his brief time as Georgia's starting quarterback.

Credit: AJC

If previous form under coach Kirby Smart holds, Georgia will open spring football practice on or about March 16. Each day between now and then, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will break down the various position groups, analyze the personnel and examine their relative spring-practice objectives. G-Day, the annual spring intrasquad scrimmage, is scheduled for April 17 at Sanford Stadium.

SPRING FOOTBALL PREVIEW: TODAY – QUARTERBACKS

ATHENS — There is no controversy — or even a discussion — over Georgia’s quarterbacks heading into the 2021 season. That is a radical departure from 2020, when the Bulldogs had essentially four QB1s.

No, JT Daniels did enough in four games at the end of last season to quiet the debate. But the rising fourth-year junior from California was not without faults. While his numbers glistened (67.2% completions, 1,231 yards, 10 TDs, 2 INTs, 4-0 record), there remained deficiencies. He was fortunate that more of his errant passes weren’t intercepted, and underthrows prevented his “explosivity” numbers from being even better than they were.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett  passes against Tennessee during the first half Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (John Amis/For the AJC)
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Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett passes against Tennessee during the first half Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at Sanford Stadium in Athens. (John Amis/For the AJC)

Credit: John Amis

Credit: John Amis

Meanwhile, if some of the hits Daniels took are any indication, it will be wise for the Bulldogs and second-year coordinator Todd Monken to have a clear succession plan. This is where the return of Stetson Bennett is no small thing. After playing in eight games in 2020, starting five, Bennett gives the Bulldogs an experienced option should anything go awry with Daniels.

But building on the explosiveness the offense showed behind Daniels will be the primary objective at quarterback this spring.

RETURNING STARTERS (2): Junior JT Daniels (4 games) and senior Stetson Bennett (5)

ALL EYES ON: Daniels

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) prepares to unleash a pass against Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)
Caption
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) prepares to unleash a pass against Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Photo by Tony Walsh/UGA Athletics)

Credit: Tony Walsh

Credit: Tony Walsh

OUTLOOK: In Daniels’ four games under center last season, the Bulldogs saw scoring increase by 8.3 points per games, with improvements in total yards (plus-103.2 ypg) and passing yards (plus-101.5 ypg). More impressive was his explosive pass-play numbers. If calculated as completions of more than 20 yards, Daniels had 22 in four games, compared with the other quarterbacks’ 15 in six contests. ... But overlooked during that run is the level of competition Georgia was facing. With the exception of the 9-1 Cincinnati Bearcats, who the Bulldogs narrowly bested in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (24-21), none of the other opponents logged a winning record in 2020. We didn’t get to see Daniels against Alabama, Auburn or Florida. It’s safe to say that the Clemson defense Daniels will face in the 2021 season opener will be the best he has faced at Georgia, and possibly since being in college. ... That’s what makes this spring especially important for Daniels. It represents 15 of what will be a total of about 40 11-on-11 practice opportunities between now and that trip to Charlotte on Sept. 4 to play Clemson. Mechanics, timing with receivers and mastery of Monken’s offense all must be sharpened in that span. ... Redshirt freshman Carson Beck and freshman Brock Vandagriff will battle for pecking order behind the top two quarterbacks. For now, that’s of secondary concern.

UP NEXT: Running backs

PREVIOUSLY: Offensive line