ATHENS — The Georgia football quarterback battle might quickly get paired down to two, based on Kirby Smart’s comments after the first scrimmage of fall drills on Saturday.
Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman, from all indications, has done nothing to lose the inherent lead he has by virtue of his experience in the new offense dating back to his January enrollment at UGA.
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USC transfer JT Daniels, who arrived in June, has yet to get cleared from the torn ACL injury he suffered in last season’s opening game but is taking part in the scrimmages.
“I don’t think anyone has separated if that’s what you’re asking,” Smart said. “As far as the time table for that, I don’t have a time table for that. It’s got to happen.”
And sooner rather than later, as Georgia has less practice time between it’s first scrimmage on Saturday and the Sept. 26 opener at Arkansa than would normally be the case.
“The biggest issue with the quarterbacks is the number of reps, you can’t prepare four, five or even three quarterbacks. So that makes it tough.”
Newman and Daniels both have a complete season under their belts, and while neither has separated enough to be declared starter, Newman has the early edge.
Redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis and true freshman Carson Beck are still getting accustomed to SEC speed and the nuances of coordinator Todd Monken’s offense.
Smart said all four of the quarterbacks got a least one series with the Ones, and Mathis had a red zone series.
It’s an indicator UGA might utilize Mathis, who possesses great speed and athleticism in addition to a big arm, in the Wildcat package Smart’s teams have traditionally featured on a limited basis.
Newman is growing more and more comfortable in Monken’s offense, taking on the challenge of making intermediate passes and touch throws.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has also shown the sort of pocket presence one might expect from a veteran, per the UGA highlights.
Newman apparently didn’t show any signs of the foot sprain the sidelined him part of supervised walk-through practices in July during Saturday’s Scrimmage One.
Smart, meanwhile, suggested Daniels’ limitations must be taken into consideration at this stage of his comeback from injury. The former 5-star prospect is not yet completely cleared.
“Cleared to me is, ‘I can go out and play a full game of tackle football,’ ” Smart said. “He gets to scrimmage, but he wouldn’t be cleared for a game in terms of contact yet.
“That factors into that decision and also the other guys, what they can do with their feet. Sometimes that’s a tough measurement at quarterback unless you go live with those guys.”
Smart indicated the first-team offense feasted on the Bulldogs’ second-team in the scrimmage.
It’s a bit of a surprise considering the quality of depth on defense that celebrated coordinator Dan Lanning has to work with.
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“Today when they went against the Twos, which the Ones on offense don’t always go up against the Twos, there was a lot of rays of light,” Smart said, “guys were scoring left and right.”
Smart summed up the scrimmage as “sloppy,” the team looking very much like a group that hadn’t played in a full-fledged 11-on-11 football game since the 26-14 win over Baylor in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.
Smart explained why the Bulldogs are operating with a sense of urgency, particularly at the quarterback position with a new scheme and new verbiage.
“We’re monitored by the NCAA and also required to give the players a certain amount of time off, so our practice numbers we have left are less than we would traditionally have at this point,” Smart said. “We also have a little time to recover and get better. When I say behind, I’m talking about the fact we didn’t have spring.
“We got guys that, Carson Beck didn’t get to go in the spring. D’Wan Mathis, a kid who really needed those reps in the spring, didn’t get to go. Jamie [Newman] didn’t get to have spring practice and JT [Daniels] wasn’t here.”
Indeed, but as Monken said earlier in the week, the quarterbacks and the offense will continue to focus on getting better one day at a time.
That’s what happened on Saturday in Sanford Stadium, as sloppy and ugly as it was at times.
“This is a ‘get it done’ business, and the good news is we have talent,” Monken said Tuesday. “We’re better today than we were yesterday, and we were better yesterday than we were Saturday. That’s what you do.”
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