ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart twice used the word “command” on Saturday when referring to JT Daniels and the Bulldogs’ offense, a sign of the times and the future.
Daniels, SEC Network sideline reporter Cole Cubelic said, is not who most people in the SEC think he is.
“JT, as a sixth-grader, understood all of our pass protections and how they worked versus different looks,” Mater Dai coach Bruce Rollinson told DawgNation last season. “He knew how to adjust it, and how to enhance it, and he could draw up our formations and defenses better than the high school kids we had.”
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It’s the sort of recruiting chatter from every high school coach of a 5-star prospect, but with Daniels, there’s no exaggeration.
It’s why Smart has tossed Daniels’ the keys to a brilliantly designed Todd Monken offense that puts the quarterback at the controls at the line of scrimmage.
Daniels was 28-of-41 passing for 324 yards with 3 TDs and no interceptions. This, despite missing no less than 4 of the top receivers in the rotation, and dealing with an offensive line getting pushed back into his lap throughout the day.
As impressive as Daniels’ decision-making is on the football field, Georgia fans have also been treated to media sessions that display just how gifted and concise of a communicator the USC transfer truly is.
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Daniels shared his thoughts on several key items, including:
• the relatively strong performances from the quarterbacks
Daniels: “I think a part of that is just really good quarterback room and a good system you know, Carson prepares like a starter, Stetson prepares like a starter, Brock prepares like a starter.
“Everyone is all about doing their job to get better every day, and I think you saw it in the spring game where you know there’s certain things are simplified and made a little easier”
• the breakout performance from freshman WR Adonai Mitchell
Daniels: “Just about A.D, in general, he’s very twitchy, he’s a really good understanding of how to get in and out of breaks, which I think makes a really good case for him when he’s one on one, so that’s part of it, and part of it is him being in the X position gives him a lot of one on one opportunities to win, and when you see a lot of one on one you see your Xs get the ball more often than not. That’s usually just the way it works out, you go where the defense tells you to
“If the defense based on what they are playing saying D-Rob at Z, and Kearis at the F, and you take what they give you.”
• the challenge facing the Georgia defense
Daniels: “Yeah, that’s one thing you have to mention about Georgia football is that defense gives you everything every down, starting with that front seven, it’s absolutely elite.
“In the secondary, you know a little inexperienced in the secondary, but don’t hold that against them. There’s a lot of talent and there’s a lot of good players.
“There’s no fear in my mind and no fear that I feel with that secondary on the field. They give us a look every day. They make a lot of plays. We make a lot of plays on them, but it’s just good on good. We made some plays today and they made some really good break-ups, too.”
• the continued growth of tight end Darnell Washington
Daniels: “You definitely see development in him. Last year when you’re coming from high school football to a real Coach Monken NFL system to college, there’s a shock that hits you right away, because there’s so much to it. You see it this year, he gets the signal right away and he knows what he’s doing without thinking twice about it, compared to last year, everyone that’s new has mental errors.
“In terms of his development physically, I think he’s gotten a lot smoother in terms of getting in and out of breaks. He’s always had good instincts, but he’s gotten even better in terms of understanding where the ball is going to be thrown, understanding where his grass is, and really taking advantage of his size.”
• the multiple check down passes to backs
Daniels: “Great question, because I love throwing the ball deep and you see it a lot, but when you have James, Zamir and Kendall and all the guys we have.
“I think check-downs are the most under-appreciated aspect of the offense. At a bare minimum, it’s easy to throw. At a bare minimum, it’s 3 yards, and that’s if the first guy tackles them, and it’s very, very rare that the first guy tackles any of our running backs. If the defense wants to break vertical pressure and drop back and play soft, if I have to check it down 10 times in a row, I’ll check it down 10 times in a row, there’s no problem with that for me.
“I think we saw against Cincinnati, that 2-minute drive consisted of a pass to George and four or five check-downs in a row. It’s taking what the defense gives you and we trust our running backs with the ball to make people miss.”
• the value of spring drills for him
Daniels: “It’s massive. I think this is my fourth, this might be my fifth spring ball in my life, including high school. I’ve never really had much experience in spring, but it’s 15 extra practices, 15 practices worth of reps with the guys you’re going to be playing with. So if there’s something you want to work on based on last year that you saw, you have all of spring to do it without having to wait a whole year
“There’s been a lot of overall improvement to me personally, and also with a lot of guys stepping up in the receiver room there’s a lot better chemistry you notice in the spring game as compared to when AD was first starting to rep with the ones.”
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