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Even after setbacks, confidence is still high for JT Daniels
JT Daniels is not the sure thing he initially entered college football as when he was a 5-star prospect in the 2018 recruiting cycle. At that point in time, he was billed as the next great Southern Cal quarterback from Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., following in the footsteps of Matt Barkley and Matt Lienart.
As he starts his first fall camp as a Georgia Bulldog though, not all that much is known about his on-field talents. Defensive backs Richard LeCounte and Eric Stokes couldn’t really speak to what he brings to the offense on the account of not seeing his game all that much. Part of that is because he spent the last two seasons at USC. The other is because he arrived at Georgia in May and has only gone through team walkthroughs and workouts.
They recognize his talent, as head coach Kirby Smart has made it a point to bring in talented players who can help Georgia win now.
Though right now, Daniels still isn’t fully cleared for contact as Georgia begins fall practice on Monday
“J.T. Daniels is not cleared yet. J.T. Daniels is coming off ACL surgery as well,” Smart said. “He’s been able to take some reps. He’s been able to throw the ball and do some things, but he’s not completely cleared from the knee yet.”
Related: Georgia football injury report: Kirby Smart says Dominick Blaylock, JT Daniels not completely cleared
The knee Smart references is the same one he tore in his opening game of the 2019 season. By the time of Georgia’s first game on Sept. 26, it will have been over a full year from when that injury occurred. A full year after Daniels, for a second time, was named the starting quarterback for the season-opener.
Daniels will be aiming to do that once again this coming fall, though his competition figures to be stiffer. He’s not the only transfer quarterback Georgia brought in, as the Bulldogs also have Jamie Newman, who got to Georgia over four months before Daniels did. There’s also Carson Beck, D’Wan Mathis and Stetson Bennett to compete with.
Smart laid out a blueprint for how one of those five, Daniels included, could win the starting quarterback job.
“Those guys are going to be judged and evaluated every day on how the command the huddle,” Smart said. “How do they respond to throwing an interception? What do they do when they make a bust? Are they making the right check, are they making the right decisions? Can they use their feet to extend plays?
“All of those things are going to be used to judge who gives us the best chance to win.”
Related: Kirby Smart: Georgia quarterback competition ‘part of the process’ for offense
Daniels, along with Newman, has started double-digit games as a starting quarterback at the Power 5 level. The USC transfer started 11 games as a true freshman, including the Trojans’ season-opener that year. In that game, after arriving at USC over the summer as opposed to a mid-year enrollee, Daniels completed 21 of his 35 pass attempts for 282 yards and a touchdown.
But it seems like ever since that debut, nothing has gone according to plan. The Trojans went 5-7 in that opening season. The next year, Daniels tore his ACL in the season-opener against Fresno State. After that, freshman Kedon Slovis blossomed as a freshman, throwing for 30 touchdowns. Daniels threw just 14 in his freshman campaign.