There’s no denying that JT Daniels impressed to close the 2020 season. The Georgia quarterback completed 67 percent of his passes while averaging 10.3 yards per attempt.
He added 10 touchdowns while leading Georgia to a 4-0 record as a starter. That strong finish is why so many are bullish on the Bulldogs’ chances entering the 2021 season.
It is worth keeping in mind though that it was just four games for Daniels. Three of those were against pass defenses that ranked outside of the top-80 in terms of passing yards allowed per game. The only elite team Daniels faced was Cincinnati and the Bearcats held the Bulldogs to just 22 offensive points.
The small sample size is likely why Phil Steele slotted Daniels as his second quarterback on his All-SEC teams. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral took home first-team honors, with Emory Jones of Florida ending up on the third team and Alabama’s Bryce Young rounding things out on the fourth team.
Related: Ole Miss’ Matt Corral gets preseason All-SEC nod over JT Daniels, per Phil Steele
Jones and Young are yet to start for their respective teams. The latter was the No. 1 overall quarterback prospect in the 2020 recruiting cycle and the Crimson Tide have had no issue developing quarterbacks in recent seasons whether it be Mac Jones or Tua Tagovailoa.
Jones is set to take over for Kyle Trask. While Jones might not have the passing upside of his predecessor in Kyle Trask, he has shown an ability to impact the game as a dual-threat quarterback. He ran for 217 yards and two touchdowns last season, while also throwing for two touchdowns. The Florida offense will look very different compared to what the Gators did in 2020.
Daniels has shown more than either of those two quarterbacks, especially if you factor in the 11 starts he had as a freshman at USC.
Now he’ll get a full offseason to work with offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Georgia’s loaded skill positions. The Bulldogs bring back all five scholarship running backs, the entire starting offensive line from the Peach Bowl win and seven pass-catchers that had at least 100 receiving yards last year.
“The game is definitely slowing down to a certain extent,” Daniels said in April. “I’ve gotten better at eliminating unnecessary things to look at pre-play. And something else I’ve been working on is decision-making and not making bad plays worse.
Daniels will have to find a way to thrive without Pickens, which may be his toughest challenge. The two developed a clear rapport, with Pickens catching 23 passes for 373 yards and six touchdowns in the four starts by Daniels. Pickens suffered a torn ACL in spring practice and his status for the 2021 season is unknown.
The Bulldogs though did go out and grab Arik Gilbert from the transfer portal to make up for the loss of Pickens. Gilbert will line up at wide receiver for Georgia after impressing in his first season at LSU.
Corral will be Daniels’ top competition for SEC supremacy when it comes to the quarterback position. In 2020, Corral threw for 29 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes. He also averaged 10.2 yards per attempt.
Critics of Corral will point to the 14 interceptions he threw last season as a reason that Daniels should perhaps be ranked ahead of him. But 11 of those came in losses against Arkansas and LSU. Subtract those games from his 10-game season and Corral threw 24 touchdowns to just three interceptions in his other eight starts.
Corral also has a rushing element to his game that Daniels does not. The Ole Miss quarterback ran for 506 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Leading Georgia should give Daniels a big platform to show why he’s one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. That’s partially why CBS Sports ranked Daniels in the first tier of college quarterbacks entering the 2021 season. Corral was relegated to the second tier.
Ultimately, should Georgia find itself in serious playoff contention come the first week in December, Daniels will be a big reason why. If he’s able to help get Georgia back into the College Football Playoff, there should be little doubt about who the best quarterback in the conference is.
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