Kirby Smart gets chance to show what he learned from the Jake Fromm-Justin Fields quarterback competition
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With JT Daniels eligible, Kirby Smart faces another tough quarterback decision
It’s now safe to say that Justin Fields was the better quarterback option than Jake Fromm. The 2019 season pretty definitively proved that, with Fields throwing for 41 touchdowns while Fromm had five consecutive games with a completion percentage under 50 percent. Fields was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season and the front-runner for the 2020 award.
Fromm fell to the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and will be fighting just to be a back-up for the Buffalo Bills.
Fromm and Fields both spent time as Georgia’s quarterback in 2018, though when it came to the biggest moments, Fromm was the guy. Fields always had a higher upside but Fromm was the more ready option, and he had just led Georgia to an appearance in the national title game the season before Fields showed up.
In a different universe where Fields is given the starting job at Georgia, he’s now entering the 2020 season as the unquestioned starter. Instead, Georgia will now once again have two clearly talented quarterbacks hoping to start for one of the top teams in the country.
Georgia always knew it was going to have Jamie Newman available for the 2020 season, as he was a graduate transfer that arrived in January. For months, he’d been billed as the guy who was going to fix the Georgia offense, contend for the Heisman Trophy and be a first-round draft pick.
He might still go on to be those things. But to do it, he’ll have to beat out an equally yet differently talent in JT Daniels. When Georgia landed Daniels in May, many wondered if the move was to better set up the Georgia quarterback room in 2021, as Daniels was not immediately eligible for the 2020 season and the Bulldogs already Newman.
Those questions disappeared on Monday when Daniels tweeted the news that he’d been granted immediate eligibility for the 2021 season.
“Thank you to the NCAA for granting me immediate eligibility and allowing me to play football this fall,” Daniels wrote. “I will not comment on the waiver or transfer, but look forward to a great 2020 season with my teammates.”
Thank you to the NCAA for granting me immediate eligibility and allowing me to play football this fall. I will not comment on the waiver or transfer, but look forward to a great 2020 season with my teammates.
— JT Daniels (@jtdaniels06) July 13, 2020
Depth figures to be as critical as ever this season, assuming there even still is a season due to all the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. With Daniels and Newman, Georgia is certainly set from a depth standpoint, as it now has two passers that have started double-digit games at the Power Five level.
But Georgia won’t be able to play both quarterbacks at the same time. Recent national champions like Clemson in 2018 and Alabama in 2015 started multiple quarterbacks over the course of the season. But in the biggest moments, those two teams both knew who their best quarterback was.
Kirby Smart and Todd Monken are going to have to figure out who that is going to be. It wouldn’t be all that surprising to see both take significant reps into the season for Georgia.
What makes this interesting is that similar to the Fromm-Fields decision the two quarterbacks have different skillsets. Newman is the superior athlete and his deep passing ability should mesh very well with Monken’s scheme. Newman is also far more capable as a rusher, as he racked up 574 rushing yards a season ago.
While there is a lot of excitement around Daniels, it’s worth remembering why so many people for so long were excited about Newman in the first place.
Daniels conversely has the better-recruiting pedigree, as he was a 5-star quarterback in the 2018 recruiting class. The only two quarterbacks that were ranked above him in the 2018 recruiting cycle were Trevor Lawrence and Fields.
The now-eligible Daniels also started at USC when he was supposed to be a senior in high school. That year had its ups-and-downs, but the future was still bright for Daniels at USC. And he was not the only, nor biggest reason for the Trojans’ 5-7 record in 2018 where he threw 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Then in the opening half of the 2019 season, Daniels tore his ACL. His sophomore season was done just one quarter after it started. Daniels has resumed football activities, as he posted a picture of himself working out with former USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
The skillsets seem to mirror that of Fields and Fromm. But the situations of Newman and Daniels are actually flipped compared to who their games are similar too. If Smart were to just make the decision on who might best help them win immediately, as he did with Fromm, Newman seems to be the choice. While Newman has taken part in the same number of practices as Daniels, Newman has been in the program longer and doesn’t have the same injury concerns that exist with Daniels.
It also wouldn’t look great if Smart brought in Newman only to bypass him for another talented quarterback.
Newman has just one season of eligibility while Daniels possibly has three. If Smart wanted to play the quarterback that best sets up Georgia’s future, he’d go with Daniels. He might sacrifice some of the 2020 season to adjust to the growing pains with Daniels, but that also might better set-up Georgia in future seasons.
Of course Smart has to both balance the present and future of the Georgia program. He, along with Monken, has to get this decision right after how Fromm and Fields ended up playing out. But he doesn’t have prior accomplishments hanging over either quarterback like he did with Fromm, as Daniels and Newman have taken a combined zero snaps in a Georgia uniform.
Life is constantly teaching you lessons. Often times, the best people recognize why they made mistakes and correct them going forward. Very rarely does life put you in the exact same situation after getting it wrong previously, giving you a clear chance to see if you’ve learned from your past.
Smart has that opportunity with Newman and Daniels and the Georgia quarterback competition. He’s got a chance to rewrite the narrative about him and the Georgia program after how things played out with Fields and Fromm in the quarterback competition of 2018.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- SEC commissioner Greg Sankey issues official statement regarding status of 2020 season
- Georgia football podcast: Hardworking UGA players deserve a season
- Social media reacts to news of JT Daniels being immediately eligible for 2020 season
- Wide receiver position continues to improve thanks to ‘rising star’ Cortez Hankton
- Why Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean embraces being at football school
- WATCH: Inside story from Kirby Smart family life, son Andrew goes viral again
Dawgs on Twitter
— Manny Diaz (@CoachMannyDiaz) July 13, 2020
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) July 13, 2020
— Adonai Mitchell5️⃣ (@MoCityMitch) July 13, 2020
Georgia now loses a 2,500-yard passer from 2019 … and brings in two 2,500-yard passers for 2020. https://t.co/Zq7wbFfq3R
— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) July 13, 2020
Good Dawg of the Day
I would like to speak to your manager. pic.twitter.com/W8BwhGrucF
— Jen (@thejenlife) July 13, 2020