Since being cleared, JT Daniels has largely worked as the scout team quarterback. That means he’s getting reps against Georgia’s first-team defense.
But it’s not quite the same as taking first-team reps, which he hadn’t been doing.
“I think the scout team work sometimes is tougher because you’re not necessarily running your plays,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “You’re not breaking the huddle and making checks. You are throwing the ball and reading the defense, but some of the plays are very similar to ours, and some are different.”
That partially explains why Daniels hasn’t seen any game action as of yet. With Georgia having an off week this week, it gives Georgia the chance to look at what some players — like Daniels — can do with the first team.
As of now, Stetson Bennett is still the guy at quarterback for Georgia. And until Daniels begins to rep more regularly with the first-team offense, and not the scout team, expect Daniels to still serve as a back-up.
Running back: Back in January at the height of the Zachary Evans recruiting melodrama, not much attention was being paid to freshman Kendall Milton.
But after back-to-back impressive showings against Tennessee and Alabama, Milton has the full attention of the Georgia fan base.
In the past two games, Milton has 100 rushing yards on 14 carries. He’s had a couple of highlight-reel runs, whether it be running through the Tennessee defense or ripping a 24-yard run against the Crimson Tide.
“Yeah, he is earning some playing time. I think you saw that probably at the last game,” Smart said. “He played a little earlier than he has been playing. He makes really good cuts, has good vision. Every opportunity he has gotten he’s taken advantage of it and grown with it.”
Milton was slowed a little bit to start the season as he dealt with multiple hamstring injuries in fall camp. He also had a fumble in Georgia’s win over Auburn.
But in the two games since then, he’s shown why he was such a coveted running back prospect in the 2021 recruiting cycle. With a well-timed off week for Georgia, Milton seems poised to be one of the players who takes on a bigger role in the Georgia offense in the weeks to come.
Wide receiver: Alabama made it a point to take away Georgia’s top receiving option this past Saturday. If you had said that before the start of the season, you would’ve said that was George Pickens.
But through the first four games of the season, that player has actually been Kearis Jackson. Alabama did successfully limit Jackson’s impact, as he had just two catches on seven targets.
Jackson having a limited impact no doubt had a role in Bennett’s poor performance against the Crimson Tide.
Smart though isn’t expecting the Alabama performance to become the norm for Jackson, given how hard the redshirt sophomore wide receiver works.
“I love the way he competes. He’s on the leadership group with the SEC office; he represents our team,” Smart said. He’s just a tremendous worker, and when you work that hard, usually good things come to people who work that hard. He’s had some success based on his work habits.”
Jackson still leads the team in receiving yards and receptions. With the emergence of Jermaine Burton against Alabama, it should make things easier for the likes of Jackson and George Pickens.
Offensive line: For all that had been about the play of the Georgia offense against Alabama, the Bulldogs offensive line held up well and played one of their better games of the season.
The group cleared the way for the likes of Zamir White and Kendall Milton, as Georgia averaged 4.8 yards per rush. That was a better clip than Alabama’s 3.4 yards per carry.
The group — made up of Jamaree Salyer, Justin Shaffer, Trey Hill, Ben Cleveland and Warren McClendon — also earned praise from Smart for their work in the passing game.
“I think our offensive line has probably played pass-pro pretty well this season, in terms of protecting the quarterback and not losing one-on-one battles,” Smart said. “I don’t feel like we’ve had a lot of mismatches- where we’ve said, that guy is really going to struggle against that guy.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that this is still a new offensive line, as the Bulldogs had three starters from last season’s team drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Alabama performance was an encouraging sign for a group that should get better as the season goes on.
Inside linebacker: DawgNation this week wrote about inside linebacker Nakobe Dean and how he is progressing in his second year in the program.
The linebacker had his first career sack against the Crimson Tide and he has nearly as many tackles through four games this season as he did in all of his freshman season.
If Dean keeps playing as he did against Alabama, it won’t be long before people start bringing up the Roquan Smith comparison that was so often thrown around when he was a recruit.
Outside linebacker: Azeez Ojulari isn’t the most talked-about Georgia football. He’s never gotten the hype that a number of other defenders have, in part because he wasn’t a 5-star recruiting prospect. He was only a 4-star player coming out of Marietta High School. Factor in that he missed most of his freshman season due to an ACL injury.
But Ojulari’s production has always exceeded the hype he’s gotten. He led Georgia in sacks last season with 5.5. He’s doing it again this season, as he’s got three sacks for the season. On the opening play against Alabama, he hit Mac Jones as the Alabama quarterback was releasing the ball. The hit forced Jones pass to flutter into the arms of Richard LeCounte for an interception.
“He is extremely tough, extremely physical, very disciplined, one of core leaders,” Smart said of Ojulari. “When you have guys that do things the right way, he practices the right way. He goes to call. He attends all of his appointments. When you evaluate a person from on and off the field, not just physical performance, he checks all of the boxes.”
Smart went beyond praising him as a player and also spoke about why he’s helped Georgia’s pass rush improve this season. Through four SEC games last season, the Bulldogs had just six sacks.
In the first four games of the 2020 season, the Bulldogs have a conference-best 13.0 sacks.
“On top of that he is a really good athlete. I am proud of the way he is working and the growth he’s made,” Smart said. “I think he’s better right now than he was this time last year and that is what you are looking for in terms of development.”
Defensive back: The Georgia secondary did not have the performance it wanted to against Alabama. Jones threw for 417 yards, the most any quarterback has since Smart took over as the head coach prior to the 2016 season.
Neither Eric Stokes or Tyson Campbell had games to remember. In ideal circumstances, the Bulldogs would’ve been able to put D.J. Daniel out there to try and slow down Jaylen Waddle or Devonta Smith.
But Daniel did not play a single snap for Georgia against the Crimson Tide.
“DJ has been battling an ankle,” Smart said. “It’s been bothering him and he’s practiced, he’s done everything we’ve asked, he’s rehabbed. He is trying to get better and we’re hopeful that he gets to 100 percent this week and can get back to the level he was playing at last year.”
When Campbell went down with a turf toe injury, Daniel stepped in and played well for the Bulldogs. He racked up 42 tackles for Georgia while also breaking up eight passes for the Bulldogs in 2019.
If the Bulldogs get a second crack at Alabama, a healthy Daniels could be one way that Georgia aims to slow down the Alabama passing attack.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- DawgNation experts discuss whether top teams are on upset alert this weekend
- Georgia’s resilient Richard LeCounte: Alabama loss ‘a little bump in our road’
- WATCH: 4 Reasons for UGA fans to be excited about season’s second half
- 3-star Tuscaloosa CB Kamari Lassiter makes his college decision
- WATCH: 2021 Georgia football recruiting season appears to be kicking into overdrive
- Georgia football podcast: UGA rival’s turmoil could benefit Bulldogs’ 2021 recruiting class
- Georgia football podcast: The one thing Kirby Smart didn’t say about JT Daniels