JT Daniels named most important player in college football by ESPN

JT Daniels-important-ESPN
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie Miles

If Georgia is going to achieve its internal goals of winning a national and SEC championship in 2021, JT Daniels is going to be a big reason why.

The quarterback returns for a second season, this time as the unquestioned starter after a strong close to the 2020 season.

Those final four games have raised expectations for Daniels and Georgia entering 2021. So much so that ESPN’s Bill Connelly named Daniels the most important player in the sport entering the 2021 season.

Daniels shared the No. 1 ranking last year with then Georgia quarterback D’Wan Mathis. The latter though struggled as a starter while the former shined once he was healthy enough to play.

“The only thing that changed since then is that we got a brief, four-game glimpse of what Daniels was capable of late last season,” Connelly wrote. “If Daniels turns small-sample dominance into large-sample prowess, the Dawgs have everything they need.”

In his four starts in 2020, Daniels threw for 10 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions while leading Georgia to a 4-0 record. Most promising was the fact that Georgia averaged 9 more points and 104 more yards per game under center compared to the other six games with Mathis and Stetson Bennett at quarterback.

The Bulldogs also bring back a number of promising weapons in 2021 along with offensive coordinator Todd Monken spending his second season with the program. That continuity is a reason for optimism when it comes to the Georgia offense joining the elite ranks in the sport.

Georgia does have some concerns though, specifically with injuries at the moment. Kearis Jackson (knee), Jermaine Burton (ankle), and John FitzPatrick (foot) were all held out of the scrimmage. That’s in addition to George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock still not being cleared as they both recover from ACL injuries.

Related: Georgia TE Darnell Washington and DB Tykee Smith among injured Bulldogs

Daniels didn’t have the greatest performance in Georgia’s last scrimmage according to his head coach. But Kirby Smart was understanding that the dearth of weapons impacted how Daniels played.

“He understands that we are going through the process of making good decisions,” Smart said. “I am really pleased with where JT is with his leadership and commanding the offense. I think he would admit that he could have had a better day than he did today, and he knows that. That is not all on him.”

Related: Georgia quarterback JT Daniels feasting on Zaxby’s NIL deal

The Bulldogs will have another scrimmage this Saturday, which will give Daniels and the Georgia offense a chance to show more progress ahead of a massive season-opener against the No. 3 ranked Clemson Tigers.

“That is on everybody including me, the offensive staff and all of the guys to keep improving,” Smart said. “That is why we do this. We do this to find out where we are, and then we will move from there.”

While Daniels was the only Bulldog to make Connelly’s list, Georgia will see a number of important players in the 2021 season. Among those include Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross, Clemson defensive lineman Bryan Bresee and Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam.

Georgia and Clemson start the season on Sept. 4, with the two sides meeting Charlotte. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and ABC will broadcast the game.

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