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The biggest question regarding the addition of JT Daniels and how it affects the Georgia quarterback room
Will the NCAA grant JT Daniels’ immediate eligibility for the 2020 season? That’s it. That’s the big question for Georgia football and its recent acquisition at the quarterback position.
There’s more uncertainty regarding that aspect than anything pertaining to Georgia quarterback room for the coming 2020 season. More so than the health of Daniels’ surgically repaired knee, how the lack of spring practice reps hurts both him and Jamie Newman and how Newman — a guy many have tabbed as a first-round pick and possible Heisman Trophy contender — reacts to another highly-touted quarterback entering the competition.
— JT Daniels (@jtdaniels06) May 28, 2020
And it’s because trying to accurately predict how the NCAA is going to rule on Daniels’ eligibility is probably a harder task than predicting when there will be a vaccine for COVID-19.
Last year we saw players like Luke Ford very publicly not get granted a waiver to play as he moved closer to home. But we then saw Justin Fields and Tate Martell, two quarterbacks with a similar profile to Daniels, be granted immediate eligibility. There’s never been any real consistency in recent seasons when it comes to getting a waiver. That’s why so many are pushing for a one-time transfer rule, but that won’t happen until at least next January.
We still don’t even know if Cade Mays, a former Georgia Bulldog, will be eligible for Tennessee this coming season. And on the surface, there is a much easier case to be made for Mays getting one than Daniels, with Mays being from Knoxville, Tenn., to go along with his parents’ lawsuit against the University of Georgia. And Mays entered and exited the transfer portal in January and filed a waiver shortly afterward.
And the NCAA has a lot more pressing matters on its plate at the moment due to COVID-19. So expecting a quick and fast decision on this might not be wise.
Until we know whether or not Daniels will be able to play in 2020, we won’t really understand the full reasoning behind the decision to bring him in.
If he’s not eligible until the 2021 season, Kirby Smart’s vision is a clearer picture. Newman would clearly be the presumed starter for Georgia this season and then head off to the NFL next season. Then Daniels would compete with the likes of Carson Beck, Dwan Mathis and Brock Vandagriff for the starting job in 2021, where the Bulldogs open the season against Clemson.
In that scenario, Daniels could also make sure his torn ACL and meniscus have fully healed, after tearing them in the opening game of USC’s 2019 season. Going almost two years without playing a competitive game might not be ideal for Daniels, but there are worse alternatives than getting a full year in a system before taking it on the road.
Georgia has only taken one transfer that had to sit out since Smart took over prior to the 2016 season. That was J.R. Reed and he proved to be a very significant piece for the Bulldogs, starting in the first season he was eligible to play for Georgia as he was a starter on the 2017 team that played for a national championship.
And Georgia’s 2021 offense figures to have a much more experienced bunch and much fewer questions than it does entering the 2020 season. George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock will both be juniors and the likes of Kendall Milton, Broderick Jones, Darnell Washington and Jermaine Burton will be sophomores.
There’s a lot of perceived upside with Daniels, given his recruiting profile. He was the No. 3 ranked quarterback in the 2018 recruiting cycle, behind only Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. And it’s even more impressive considering he skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at USC.
Daniels didn’t always show that same 5-star potential though once at USC. In his freshman season, he tossed 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He’s the only quarterback to play for USC since Clay Helton took over that didn’t throw for at least 25 touchdowns and 3,000 yards.
Of course, that was in Daniels’ freshman and he was not the sole reason the Trojans went 5-7 in 2018. It’s not fair to put all the shortcomings with USC on the shoulders of an 18-year old who was still growing as a player.
And that growth is why adding him to the 2020 quarterback picture would make things incredibly murky at the most important position on the offense.
Smart has already acknowledged how the lack of reps stemming from the cancellation of spring practice will hurt the quarterback position more than any other. Now if you have a more serious competition this fall between Newman and Daniels, you would be diluting those reps even further. You’ll have less time to get a more accurate picture on what Newman or Daniels can do while guiding the offense.
“The more they give us time-wise the more we will be able to do,” Smart told reporters on Thursday. ” The less they give us the less we will probably be able to do, but that is not something we have decided right now.”
Adding in Daniels to the 2020 mix also sets up another situation similar to that of Justin Fields and Jake Fromm in the 2018 season. Georgia had two capable options at quarterback that year in Fromm and Fields. Fromm was the more known quality while Fields offered more upside.
Smart largely stuck with Fromm, though he would insert Fields into the game at seemingly random times, including during the fourth quarter of the SEC championship game. No one was satisfied with how Smart played out the situation and he has been routinely criticized for the handling of it. Fromm regressed in his final season in Athens while Fields was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Having two quarterbacks to choose from in Newman and Daniels could give Smart the opportunity to show he’s learned from his past mistakes. Or it could allow him to make them once again.
Right now, Smart doesn’t have a decision to make when it comes to Daniels. There was a talented player on the market, and Smart added him to the roster. It’s consistent with how he’s run every other aspect of the Georgia program. That was the easy part.
The hard part comes once the NCAA makes a decision on Daniels and his eligibility. It will either push the discussion about what Daniels brings to 2021 or it starts a very serious quarterback competition for Georgia in a time when practice reps are limited and crucial.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Kirby Smart: Georgia football workouts new normal ‘completely different’ than pre-COVID19
- Making a case for why these 2019 signees will or won’t breakout this fall
- The Georgia football freshmen that are most physically ready to contribute early
- BREAKING: Georgia football adds an anchor 2022 commit in CB Marquis Groves-Killebrew
- Georgia football podcast: An open letter to Jake Fromm from a UGA fan
- Georgia quarterback D’Wan Mathis fully cleared for game action after MRI
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