ATHENS — Calm, cool and collected, Georgia quarterback JT Daniels laid things out matter-of-factly in his first appearance before the media this spring
“There’s no denying you want to win a natty, and I think we have the team to do it,” Daniels said, asked about his championship aspirations this upcoming season with the Bulldogs, his second in Athens since transferring from USC.
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“Obviously, losing George (Pickens) doesn’t help you, losing an elite top receiver, but it’s a great team,” said Daniels, who went 4-0 at the end of last season. “I think Coach Smart has done a great job of instilling a team standard and team DNA that a lot of guys have taken to.”
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Losing Pickens to a torn ACL earlier in spring drills has increased the importance of every Georgia receiver, tight end and running back. Pickens was projected to be a 100-catch receiver by some.
Daniels, who completed 67 percent of his passes with 10 TDs and 2 interceptions in his four games, sounds excited to be spreading those passes around.
“We have a loaded receiver room, it’s great to see some of the young guys, J-Rob (Justin Robinson), Jermaine (Burton) before the little knee thing, D-Rob (Demetris Robertson) has been stepping up, and Kearis (Jackson is always Kearis.
“You have a lot of guys that are going to work their butts off to develop and produce any way they can.”
Georgia expects to get Dominick Blaylock (knee) and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (ankle) before the season, too.
“The running backs have been great, and I think the tight ends have been exceptional as well,” Daniels said. “Fitz deserves a lot of respect and a lot of praise for how hard he works, and how much better his ball skills have gotten — John FitzPatrick has developed a lot. Darnell (Washington) has obviously developed a lot.
“I think Zamir (White) has gotten better in and out of breaks in his routes,. (James) Cook, Kendall (Milton) and Kenny (McIntosh) are really great route runners.”
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Daniels said he had — and still has — room to get better and improve himself.
“I’ve gotten better at eliminating unnecessary things to look at pre-play,” said Daniels, who has been known to be almost too prepared at times for defenses.
“Something else I’ve been working on is decision making, and not making bad plays worse, which is something that has always been a constant improvement for me.”
In this case, Daniels is referring to learning to not try to force completions on each play, or perhaps even hold the ball too long to find the next receiver.
“Guys are going to slip, someone is going to run the wrong route now and then, then someone will miss protection,” Daniels said. “It’s on me to not make it worse and get a turnover. Incompletions aren’t bad, throw-aways aren’t bad.”
Daniels has come a long way since last April, when he was sitting out at USC while recovering from knee surgery and investigating potential schools for transfer.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed is, the game is slowing down a bit,” he said. “With me understanding where to go with the ball faster by seeing less (in the pre-snap read).”
Meanwhile, Georgia coaches and teammates have been seeing as much of Daniels in the football building as anyone else, even during the offseason.
As much of a grind as football might seem, Daniels seemingly can’t get enough.
“I’ve been here since I’ve moved, I have not been back home, so I’m fully transitioned to living in Georgia,” Daniels said, asked what he did in the offseason to decompress. “I’ve been hanging out with my dogs a lot, and then workouts started before you know it.
“So not much of a decompress thing, but that’s never been something I’ve needed to do much,” he said. “I play the game because I love it, and I really don’t need much time away from it.”
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