ATHENS — Former Georgia national championship quarterback Buck Belue played in an era where offenses didn’t have to throw the ball much, but the current Atlanta radio host realizes times have changed.
Belue, who played at UGA from 1978-81, said on a recent podcast it’s time for current UGA coach Kirby Smart to “take the handcuffs off this Bulldogs offense and turn his passing attack loose.”
Former SEC all-time passing leader and Georgia radio network analyst Eric Zeier said he agrees with Belue and thinks it’s in the process of happening with JT Daniels under center.
“You look at the last four games of the year, I think we started to see what this offense is capable of,” said Zeier, who held 67 UGA offensive records and 18 SEC records at the conclusion of his collegiate career (1991-94).
“As you know, when you don’t have the talent on the field, and no disrespect to anybody who has been playing, but we’ve got a different group of guys right now that are starting to pick this offense up.”
Two of those “different guys” who came on strong at the end of the season were Daniels and receiver George Pickens.
Belue said it was frustrating last season to see Daniels get off to such a strong start with four touchdown passes in his first game, only to see him be limited in his next outing at South Carolina.
“JT threw it 38 times in his debut against Mississippi State, then the very next week, I was dumbfounded when Georgia only threw it 16 times, it makes no sense,” Belue said. “The smart move is to open up this offense and start throwing it 35, 40 times a game.”
Georgia ranked 45th in the nation in passing offense last season and had two SEC games where it attempted less than 20 passes (Kentucky, 14, and South Carolina, 16).
Georgia was 101st in the nation in passing efficiency (115.79) and 113th in completion percentage (52.4) prior to Daniels taking over.
Daniels raised UGA significantly by completing better than 67 percent of his passes with an efficiency rating of 178.49.
Zeier said he’s confident with Daniels’ growth in the offense, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken in his second year, it will be an exciting Georgia offense next season.
“I think we’ve got a play-caller in Coach Monken that is as good as anyone in the country,” Zeier said. “I think we’ve got a skillset, from a talent perspective, that’s as good as anybody in the country.
“I think this is the year you see a different and a new kind of Georgia offense,” Zeier concluded. “We saw glimpses of it last year, it will be full throttle next year.”
The Bulldogs are in the midst of their offseason conditioning program and open spring football drills on March 16.
Georgia is allowed 15 spring practices, including and culminating with the annual G-Day Game which is scheduled for April 17 at Sanford Stadium.
Clemson, the Bulldogs’ opponent in both teams’ Sept. 4 season-opening game in Charlotte, N.C., opened its spring drills on Wednesday.
Here’s a look at Georgia’s SEC rank and offensive statistics before Daniels took over as quarterback for the final four games of the season, compared with his statistics.
Before: 29.0 points per game
Daniels’ Average: 37.25
Before: 173.5 yards per game
Daniels’ Average: 175.25
Before: 382.8 yards per game
Daniels’ Average: 486.0
Before: 209.3 yards per game
Daniels’ Average: 307.75
Before: 115.79 pass efficiency rating
Daniels’ numbers: 178.49
Pass yards per completion
Before: 12.95 yards per completion
Daniels’ numbers: 15.39
3rd Down conversion rate
Before: 42 percent
Daniels’ numbers: 53.1 percent
Before: 52.4 percent
Daniels’ numbers: 67.2