ATHENS — The Georgia quarterback rotation seems up for grabs with more speculation on the position than ever before.
This, despite Stetson Bennett’s gaudy 93.6 QB rating in his 20-of-29 passing performance that netted 211 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 37-10 win over Arkansas.
Bennett would seem to be the favorite to start when UGA plays host to the Tigers at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, though JT Daniels might also see his first action.
Daniels, most feel, will ultimately take over the Bulldogs’ offense with his NFL arm and passing skills.
But Bennett may not be ready to turn over the reins quite yet.
In addition to Bennett’s moxie, the fourth-year junior showed the sort of mobility and running skills that could put Auburn’s defense on its heels.
Some probably aren’t aware, but Bennett’s passing performance at Arkansas also ranked as the second best in the SEC last Saturday. His QB rating trailed only Alabama’s Mac Jones while ahead of Florida’s Kyle Trask and Mississippi State’s KJ Costello.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Bennett is a better quarterback or headed for any sort of record-breaking year.
But what it does show is the validity of Todd Monken’s Air Raid principles in the Bulldogs’ offense.
Do people realize Monken is the only active coordinator to direct a Top 5 offense in the NFL and a Top 5 offense in the collegiate ranks?
Georgia’s offense will still carry Pro Style principles, but it will also look to use the pass to set up the run moving forward, particularly with the offensive line somewhat unsettled and a drop-off in the backfield.
Coach Kirby Smart addressed three big issues earlier this week, including what’s next for the Bulldogs’ run game.
James Cook’s struggles at Arkansas have been well-documented, as his fumble, stumbles and two dropped passes ranked among the bigger disappointments after all the offseason build-up.
Smart made it clear UGA won’t be afraid to look for another hot hand to pair with starter Zamir White if there are more issues against Auburn.
“We have five guys we feel comfortable with, (and) good thing is the young guys have gotten a lot of reps with some of the other guys—Kenny [McIntosh] was dinged up in camp,” Smart said. “We were able to get Kendall [Milton] and Daijun [Edwards] on a lot more reps because of that. I have a lot of confidence in all five of those guys. They do a good job and work each day.”
McIntosh is healthy now and could be the top option if Cook continues to struggle.
No, Smart didn’t name a starting quarterback or come any closer to tipping his hand.
But the Bulldogs head coach did have some encouraging words on recently cleared JT Daniels and D’Wan Mathis.
“(Mathis) is continuing to work, he’s getting better, he’s growing as a player,” Smart said. “He has learned from some of his mistakes, and [we’re] trying to get the players around him to play better too so that allows him to have success.
“Really the same thing with JT [Daniels], he’s continuing to work. He’s doing a great job—glad he’s cleared because he is able to play now. We’re excited to see him and see what he does.”
Smart’s biggest concern on the Auburn offense is clearly Bo Nix, a rapidly developing legacy player who is as much a coach on the field as he is a skilled and athletic quarterback.
Smart compared Nix to how Jake Fromm grew from his freshman year to one of the top 10 rated passers as a sophomore.
“You can’t put a price tag on experience,” Smart said. “I saw that with Jake Fromm. The first year you saw these simple mistakes then the next year it was like, ‘I know the down of distance better. I know where the yard marker is. I know I am in field goal range—don’t take a sack. I know where I am going with the ball. I have seen this defense now eight times, I know exactly what to do with the ball.’
“It’s one of those deals that with experience you make better decisions. It’s very obvious that [Bo Nix’s] learning curve is really fast in terms of being able to understand his offense, how you use it.”
Nix has a streak of 218 consecutive passes without an interception entering the Georgia game on Saturday, second longest in the nation behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (276).