JT Daniels brings improved confidence, ‘California swag’ into second season at Georgia

JT Daniels-confidence-Georgia
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

A lot has changed for Georiga quarterback JT Daniels in the past year.

He was trying to acclimate himself to his new surroundings at Georgia while competing for the starting job in August of 2020. At the time Jamie Newman was seen as the top competition for the starting job before he ultimately opted out of the season.

The on-field completion though wasn’t the only thing Daniels was dealing with. He was thousands of miles from home while also still recovering from a knee injury that ended his sophomore season at USC. That knee wouldn’t allow him to play until the seventh game of the season.

Though the circumstances around Daniels have very clearly changed, his head coach hasn’t much noticed much of a difference in how Georgia’s starting quarterback carries himself.

“I’ve really not seen a lot of difference in his confidence,” Smart said. “To be a quarterback you have to be a confident person in and of itself. He’s probably got more confidence with good reason from actual experience in the SEC having played than he had prior.”

Georgia safety Lewis Cine has also taken notice of Daniels’ confidence. Just in a way that differs from how Smart views it.

“He brings a California swag with him,” Cine said. “He’s very laid back but he knows when to enjoy the moment, enjoy the time. During practices or whatever, he makes big plays or probably a mistake, he knows how to carry himself when things aren’t going well or they are going well.

“That’s one thing that I really like about him. He really has taken command as a quarterback and he has all of our respect.”

It is likely why Daniels has become a better leader.

“His relationship with the players, just sheer connection has improved, which therefore has improved confidence,” Smart said. “It’s much easier to demand excellence when you know somebody personally than walk out there and you’ve been on Zoom for three months like we were this time last year.

“He’s in a much better position to be confident.”

Related: Arik Gilbert ‘as advertised’ per Georgia teammate Lewis Cine

That confidence seems to be trickling down to Georgia’s skill players as well. Tight end John FitzPatrick is among the many in and around Georgia who are ready to see the Georgia offense take another big leap.

“I’d say the biggest difference is that continuity,” FitzPatrick said. “We’re excited and ready to make explosive plays in the pass game and run game. We’re ready to connect on all cylinders.”

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