ATHENS — Georgia’s offense came to life last season, correlating with JT Daniels taking over as the Bulldogs’ quarterback with four games remaining.
Suddenly, George Pickens and the receiving corps had new energy, and with a quarterback capable of making all the throws and progressions, competition for targets took on new meaning.
Coach Kirby Smart has said since taking over the program five years ago that he wants an explosive offense that’s capable of being balanced enough to run and throw the ball effectively, and UGA stocked the cupboard with receivers in 2019 and 2020 recruiting classes.
Smart has indicated he’s not averse to throwing the football often when game situations, personnel or defenses dictate.
The 2021 season appears promising for fans of the passing game and Daniels, who turned 21 on Tuesday.
Georgia will begin its 15 spring practice sessions on March 16 leading up to the April 17 G-Day Game before entering and into an offseason expected to be filled with voluntary workouts.
There’s plenty of time for players to emerge or make a move before the season kicks off on Sept. 4 against Clemson in Charlotte, N.C.
But in the wake of Arik Gilbert’s decision to transfer to Florida rather than Georgia and play the 2021 season — pending a waiver from the SEC league office — it seemed prudent to look at exactly how many targets will be available.
The first step in the projections was looking at the final four games of the 2020 season that Daniels played at quarterback, and multiplying those numbers by three to see how the numbers might look in a 12-game season.
Then, looking at how the abundance of talent at receiver might affect the game plan, another 10 percent was added to the number of pass attempts.
Finally, expect Daniels’ completion percentage to improve from 67 percent to at least 70 percent, based on his familiarity with the offense and chemistry with receivers, to arrive at projected final passing stats with Daniels under center.
2021 JT Daniels 12-game projection: 280-400, 4,100 yards, 42 TDs, 10 interceptions
2020 Mac Jones in 13 games: 311-402, 4,500 41 TDs, 4 interceptions
The comparison to the former Alabama quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist provides evidence the Daniels’ 2021 projection might be on the ambitious side.
Here’s a way-too-early prediction on how the 2021 receiver numbers might look, based on the number of catches, targets and yards projected for Daniels:
2021 George Pickens’ 12-game projection: 65 catches, 85 targets, 1,000 yards
(Pickens over the final four games of 2020 caught 23 passes, 33 targets for 373 yards).
— 65 catches would rank second-most in a season, ahead of Terrence Edwards’ 59 catches in 2002 but shy of Brice Hunter’s school-record 76 in 1993.
— 1,000 yards would rank second-most in a season, ahead of Hunter’s 970 yards in 1993 and behind Edwards’ school-record 1004 in 2002.
2021 Jermaine Burton 12-game projection: 35 catches, 60 targets, 650 yards
(Burton final four games of 2020, 17 catches, 24 targets for 274 yards)
2021 Dominick Blaylock 12-game projection 25 catches, 35 targets 400 yards
(Did not play 2020 season)
2021 Darnell Washington 12-game projection: 30 catches, 45 targets 360 yards
(Washington final four games 2020, 5 catches, 8 targets, 107 yards)
2021 Arian Smith 12-game projection 25 catches, 42 targets, 475 yards
(Smith final four games 2020, 2 catches, 2 targets, 86 yards)
2021 Kearis Jackson 12-game projection 20 catches, 28 targets, 325 yards
(Jackson final four games 2020, 9 catches, 13 targets for 118 yards)
2021 James Cook AND RBs combined 12-game projection: 50 catches, 55 targets, 530 yards
(RBs final four games, 12 catches, 17 targets, 128 yards)
2021 Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint AND receivers 12-game combined: 18 catches, 28 targets, 225 yards
2021 John FitzPatrick AND tight ends 12-game combined: 12 catches, 22 targets, 135 yards
There’s a good chance many looking at those projections will suggest three or four players will surpass the projected numbers, even factoring in the likelihood there will be some attrition.
But which players would you take targets from?
A look at those projections makes it evident that Georgia isn’t in the position to guarantee 7-10 targets per game to any incoming receiver — as Gilbert was getting his final four games at LSU — with so much internal competition taking place.