ATHENS — Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has been trained for this moment, from the time he was drawing up plays as a sixth grader better than players at powerhouse Mater Dai (Calif.) High School.
The plan was Southern Cal, but a torn ACL his freshman season and a phone calls from Georgia coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken altered the path.
What stood before Georgia media on Tuesday’s Zoom call was the SEC’s highest-rated returning quarterback, four games under his belt, with championship goals ahead of him.
Daniels sounded more like a 10-year NFL veteran quarterback than a junior in college.
It explains why Coach Kirby Smart has delegated so much offensive leadership to Daniels, and why the Bulldogs’ offense figures to open up with the Southern California gunslinger calling his shots from the line of scrimmage.
Here are 3 things we learned about Daniels:
Everyone has a different concept of what leadership means, and Daniels was clear and up front about how he views it.
“First and foremost, it starts with how you approach everything you do, especially being a veteran now, this is my fourth season of college football.
“I think It’s also important how to focus on my body language and my mannerisms. Typically I’ve always been more of a laid-back kind of guy, especially on the field. I’m never a hype man, that’s never been my thing.
“But I’ve put more effort into not just words of encouragement, but trying to keep everyone focused on task, if someone is not doing the right thing, or if I’m not doing the right thing, someone is going to tell me and I have to take criticism.
Daniels, naturally, was asked about the team losing go-to receiver George Pickens indefinitely to a knee injury. His response showed a maturity and compassion that’s not always common to young players in his position.
“The first thing is to be there for George the person more than George the player. As a person who has torn his ACL and had a catastrophic knee injury, the first thing I did was to check in on him, make sure he’s on Ok.
“ His two biggest strengths are his confidence and his love of football. So I think it’s going to be big for him, and big for me, to make sure he keeps those things central.”
Daniels had no problem sharing feedback on Brock Vandergiff when asked specifically about the 5-star early enrollee. But Daniels also shed light on the entire QB room, painting a picture of harmony at the position not seen since Smart’s first season. Daniels helped sow the seeds by being supportive of Stetson Bennett and since-depart D’Wan Mathis last season while working on the scout team.
“I really liked Brock instantly, we had a good connection and we really have a great quarterback room where everyone is really good friends and genuinely helps each other. Every time after a series in practice, or a series in games, I got to Stetson and Carson and ask them what they saw, it was the same thing when Stet was in. Same thing with Carson, and I think Brock has really taken to that. He asks a lot of questions, he asked to go over stuff with me. and he wants to learn
It’s great to see. Just overall for the quarterbacks it’s a great room.