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JT Daniels is Georgia's starting quarterback.

The Georgia football players with the most to gain in Peach Bowl

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JT Daniels among the players with the most to gain in Peach Bowl matchup against Cincinnati

JT Daniels: 

The Georgia starting quarterback has proven that he can play well against less than stellar defenses. He lit up the likes of Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina in Georgia’s final three games of the 2020 season. He’s a big reason why there is a lot of optimism for Georgia in 2021

But none of those defenses would qualify as elite. In terms of yards per play allowed, the best of those defenses is Mississippi State which is tied for 49th in the country in that category.

The Cincinnati Bearcats rank first in that mark. Luke Fickell’s defense gives up 4.32 yards per play, better than Clemson, Georgia and Alabama.

This will be the best defense Daniels has faced to this point in his Georgia career. While Cincinnati hasn’t faced an opposing team with as much natural talent as Georgia’s they’ve seen capable offenses against Central Florida and Memphis this season. Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is also a candidate for the opening at LSU, which should tell you how well thought of he is.

Kirby Smart spoke about how the bowl game might provide a false sense of momentum going into next season. A good or bad performance won’t likely have much bearing on how Daniels actually performs going into next season.

“They’re going to talk about the next season, it’s going to be gloom or doom,” Smart said. “It’s going to be way up there if you win and way down there if you lose, and the truth, as they always says, resides somewhere in the middle. That’s not necessarily going to change for us.”

A strong showing though from Daniels will go a long way in shaping the offseason narrative around the Georgia program. So far, Daniels has done everything that has been asked of him to this point. Cincinnati though figures to be his most difficult task to date.

Darnell Washington:

Tre’ McKitty made it super official on Sunday when he announced that he would not be playing in the Peach Bowl. He thanked the Georgia fans, coaches and training staff in his message, as he will now prepare for the upcoming Senior Bowl.

McKitty’s lone season at Georgia was snake-bitten, as a preseason knee injury limited him to just seven games on the season and was clearly a factor in sitting out the Peach Bowl. He finished the regular season with six catches for 108 yards. His lone touchdown catch came against South Carolina.

RelatedYoung Georgia football players will get bigger ‘opportunity’ in Peach Bowl against Cincinnati

There figures to be one big beneficiary in McKitty’s departure, in both a literal and figurative sense. Darnell Washington will likely see an increase in snaps in both the ground and pass game.

Georgia made it a point to get Washington involved in the game against Missouri. He posted a career-best day, catching two passes for 61 yards and drawing a pass interference penalty on another passing attempt. Though he’s been rarely targeted this season, when he comes down with the catch it’s usually for a big gain as he’s averaging 30.0 yards per catch this season.

There is also still the looming prospect of LSU tight end Arik Gilbert still potentially entering the transfer market, so Georgia could be further motivated to showcase what tight ends can do in this offense.

Warren Ericson

It’s not so much a question of whether or not Ericson plays but rather at which position. Starting center Trey Hill will play in the game as he is still recovering from two knee surgeries. Starting right guard Ben Cleveland will also not play in the game as he has opted out.

Ericson started at center for Georgia against Missouri and he actually filled in at right guard last year for Cleveland in the Sugar Bowl. In between those starts, he’s served as the sixth offensive lineman for Georgia, filling in wherever he needs to.

This game will be an audition for Ericson for the 2021 season to see what he could possibly do in an expanded role. Georgia is set to see left guard Justin Shaffer also graduate, though it is possible he could still come back.

With both guard spots open, this will allow Georgia to see what the offensive line looks like with Ericson at one of the guard spots.

It will also be interesting to see what Georgia does with the other starting offensive line spot, as it does have a couple of talented freshmen it could turn to in Sedrick Van Pran at center or Tate Ratledge at guard. Redshirt freshman Clay Webb is also a name to know at guard as well.

Nakobe Dean

Dean has started every game for Georgia this season, so it won’t be like he’ll be earning any extra playing time in the game against Cincinnati. There is though a leadership void for him to fill, with Monty Rice sitting out the game to allow a foot injury he’s played with since prior to the Alabama game to fully heal.

Dean led Georgia in tackles this year with 64, taking another strong step in his development with the Bulldogs. He’s yet to become the destroyer of worlds that Roquan Smith was in 2017, but Smith wasn’t that type of player for Georgia in his sophomore season either.

Without Rice and safety Richard LeCounte’s status still questionable at best, Dean has a real opportunity to use this game to make a statement for what the 2021 season could look like with Dean as Georgia’s top linebacker.

Cincinnati does have a top-15 rushing offense and quarterback Desmond Ridder has earned consistent praise from Kirby Smart in the run-up to the game.

“We’ve been over this before in terms of experienced quarterbacks, they don’t make mistakes,” Smart said. “He pulls the ball when he needs to pull it, he makes guys miss on the perimeter. He takes off and scrambles for a 50-yard touchdown run. He’s just a really, really good football player.”

If Dean is able to slow Ritter, it will go a long way in helping Georgia end its season with a victory and a positive note.

Tyrqiue Stevenson:

Whether or not LeCounte, Mark Webb and DJ Daniel play or not is still yet to be seen. LeCounte’s status was mentioned above and Smart did indicate that Webb would be playing in the game.

Related: Kirby Smart: Azeez Ojulari in, several other Georgia starters out of Peach Bowl

Regardless, this will be their final game in the Georgia secondary as all three have accepted Senior Bowl invites. Cornerback Eric Stokes already declared for the NFL draft, so the Bulldogs won’t have him available for the game.

With all the impending departures, the most interesting player to watch in Georgia’s secondary is Stevenson. He’s started three games this year for Georgia, playing out of the star and money positions, where he functions as a safety and cornerback hybrid.

Stevenson has played in all nine games for Georgia this year and will be counted on as a key piece in next year’s revamped secondary. The question is, where does Stevenson play? Does he take on more of Webb’s snaps at the star position? Does he move to the cornerback position, the same one he was recruited to play out of high school in Miami?

Georgia has used Stevenson in a number of ways this season and he’s been an asset to the secondary. How he plays against Cincinnati could be a worthwhile indicator for how Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning use him in 2021.

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