MIAMI SHORES, Fla. — Georgia football hit the practice field with a “different atmosphere” thanks to the return of George Pickens and JT Daniels.
Pickens and Daniels were college football’s most dynamic QB-receiver duo at the end of last season, connecting 23 times for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns the last four games of last season as Georgia won out and secured a fourth-straight Top 10 season.
To put the Daniels-Pickens chemistry into perspective, Ladd McConkey leads the current receivers with 28 catches for 430 yards and 5 touchdowns over 13 games this season.
Pickens and Daniels cleared COVID-19 protocol on Monday, arriving in South Florida and re-joining the team before the Bulldogs’ practice at Barry University under mostly sunny skies and the temperature hovering around 80 degrees.
UGA offensive coordinator Todd Monken spoke at a mandatory press conference on Tuesday morning, discussing Pickens’ return and Daniels’ ability to be prepared if called upon.
RELATED: Todd Monken confident Stetson Bennett can lead Georgia to national title
Monken, in his second year calling plays the Bulldogs, is confident Daniels’ would be ready to relieve tarter Stetson Bennett in the Orange Bowl CFP Semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., if needed.
“He’s one of those guys that can come right in and know exactly what we want to do,” said Monken, who along with coach Kirby Smart hand-picked Daniels out of the transfer portal after the 2019 season, sharing visions with the USC transfer of an opportunity to run a Pro-Style Spread offense that features Air Raid concepts.
“(Daniels) has been in every meeting, Zoom meeting,” said Monken, who orchestrated a record-breaking offensive season for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2018. “(Daniels) will be ready to go. There’s no question in any mind he’ll be ready to go.”
Monken, in a roundabout way, explained why Georgia didn’t make a change at quarterback when the team’s offense struggled with Bennett, most recently in the second half of the SEC Championship Game.
“There are times in games where any of our players don’t play their best, and we’re disappointed in how they played,” Monken said. “But the body of work that we felt like that Stetson had given us I think allowed us to carry it over to the next weeks.”
That said, Monken left open the possibility that Smart and Georgia could explore other options should the situation call for it.
“The reality is that we don’t know what’s behind the next decision,” Monken said. “We know what we make the decision based on what we see on a daily basis.
“No one is guaranteed week to week.”
Georgia veteran receiver Kearis Jackson knows that, having been limited to special teams at the start of the season while recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Jackson has just 14 catches for 178 yards this season, as the Bulldogs have shifted to a more conservative passing attack with Bennett that relies heavily on the play-action pass and tight end targets.
Pickens’ ACL surgery was last March, but he was back on the practice field in October and he played limited snaps in the past two games, making 3 catches for 46 yards.
RELATED: Todd Monken stresses George Pickens’ development as No. 1 returns
Pickens’ presence alone, however, makes a difference according to Jackson.
“He’s been a great addition to this team, him being able to come back from that injury has been tremendous for not only for himself but for the team,” Jackson said.