ATHENS — The buzz came through loud and clear around the Classic City this week when word spread of JT Daniels‘ immediate eligibility.
It was treated as breaking news, but it would have been an even bigger story had Daniels not been granted immediate eligibility. After all, the redshirt sophomore from USC played less than one half of football last season on account of a season-ending knee injury.
Daniels has been competing since stepping foot in Athens more than a month ago. He was on board for the start of voluntary workouts that began on June 8 under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair.
Coach Kirby Smart and his staff have been able to oversee the workouts since Wednesday. It enables them to get a better feel for players they had previously only been able to observe via Zoom conference call.
The reality is not much changes with Daniels becoming eligible. It’s just one less box to check off in Georgia’s championship culture.
The Bulldogs’ quarterback situation may not be optimal, in the sense there’s not a returning starter coming back with a command of the offense and chemistry with receivers.
But with a new offensive coordinator, a rebuilt offensive line, an inexperience backfield and an influx of new receiver talent, there would have been limitations even if Jake Fromm had returned for his senior season.
Here’s a breakdown of Georgia’s five scholarship quarterbacks going into the first weekend of coaches overseeing workouts.
1. Jamie Newman
Newman came to Georgia to run more of a pro style offense and improve his NFL draft stock, and there’s no better way to do that than beating Alabama on Sept. 19.
The Wake Forest graduate transfer has already learned the job won’t be handed to him — Daniels’ arrival was evidence of that.
Newman has surely realized the talent he’s surrounded by every day in Athens is on another level than what Winston-Salem had to offer.
Smart recently praised Newman for his leadership, athleticism and ability. More telling, Smart chose Newman to speak on a Zoom presentation for boosters, another stamp of approval.
Newman will have to give his best in fall camp to hold the job, and then he’ll need to play error-free in Tuscaloosa if he’s to take every snap against the Crimson Tide.
2. JT Daniels
Daniels, a former 5-star prospect from SoCal powerhouse Mater Dai High School, was groomed for the sort of pressure and attention that comes with the Georgia quarterbacking job.
The intense scrutiny and fish bowl atmosphere of SEC stadiums and campuses are why California quarterbacks come South.
As former California Golden Boy turned Top 10 passer in SEC history Casey Clausen once said at Tennessee, “I came here to play big-time football.”
It doesn’t get any bigger than Georgia these days. That’s why Daniels traveled nearly coast to coast to elbow his way into a crowded quarterback room.
Savvy, calculated, accurate and measured, Daniels has several of the attributes NFL teams are looking for, provided he can overcome the knee injury he suffered last season.
UGA offers him a bona fide NFL coordinator in Todd Monken along with a chance to win a national championship in what could be a one, two or less-likely three-year stop.
3. D’Wan Mathis
Mathis’ father said Smart treated D’Wan like he was his own son when D’Wan Mathis was rushed to Piedmont Hospital for emergency brain surgery in May of 2019 and awoke in ICU with his career in doubt.
It’s been a long, hard and sometimes frustrating comeback for Mathis.
The Detroit area prospect was viewed by some Georgia fans as more of a consolation prize for Justin Fields’ transfer than he was regarded as the high-profile recruit Ohio State was intent on signing.
If you think that not getting to travel to road games last season and being written off as a care case put a chip on Mathis’ shoulder, you’d be right.
But a look at the recent Twitter timeline reveals Mathis’ Georgia teammates have been impressed. As the old saying goes, “The Players Always Know.”
4. Carson Beck
It’s possible Beck might have the highest ceiling of all of the current quarterbacks before all is said and done.
Just consider the true freshman’s attributes: tremendous athleticism, good arm strength, decent mobility, high football I.Q.
The question is, does Beck possess the patience and persistence needed to navigate a crowded QB room?
Former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley recently shared the benefits of Beck not having to be rushed on the field, one being his ability to develop more physically.
Beck is still coming together, but it’s clear he has won the respect of his teammates and knows how to carry himself as a quarterback and leader.
5. Stetson Bennett
Bennett was the No. 2 quarterback on the roster last season, so the redshirt junior had plenty of opportunities to prove himself trustworthy as a backup quarterback.
Bennett’s size and arm strength lower his ceiling, in terms of his chances of playing in the NFL, but all Georgia wants him to be is at his best.
A former walk-on, Bennett played a year of junior college football before returning to Georgia on scholarship. It’s an admirable journey he can and should feel good about.
It’s not out of the question Bennett gets called upon for game action at some point in the season. Bennett’s greatest chance to help the team, however, is likely as a veteran presence in the QB room and on the scout team offense.