HOOVER, Ala. — Quarterback JT Daniels is well aware of how people talk about him and the Georgia football team.
He knows the Bulldogs are likely to be picked to win the SEC East. He expects to have a great season, proving to many why he’s one of the most-hyped players in the sport entering the 2021 season.
And he’s not at all burdened about the ever-present national championship expectations around the program.
“The preseason rankings are what they are,” Daniels said on Tuesday. “We don’t have any say over them. It’s cool when they say you’re good. It’s cool when they say you suck. It really doesn’t matter either way. You go out and play football.”
Daniels started four games to end the 2020 season for the Bulldogs. Georgia won all four of those games, with Daniels tossing 10 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions in those games. The Bulldogs scored 37 points per game in the Daniels starts, compared to just 28 in the non-Daniels games.
When Daniels made the decision to return to Georgia for the 2021 season, a number of teammates followed suit. Running backs James Cook and Zamir White both return. Georgia also brings back most of its pass catchers from last season as well and every offensive line starter from the Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati.
Daniels did see his top target, George Pickens go down with an ACL injury in March. But the Bulldogs went out and brought in Arik Gilbert from the transfer portal. Daniels remarked that Gilbert has been the topic he was asked most about when speaking on Tuesday.
Related: Arik Gilbert expected to be cleared: ‘Obviously he’s special’
With all that talent, Daniels knows he’s facing a unique challenge entering this season.
“The only problem is there is only one ball,” Daniels said. “It’s not just that Arik is just another guy, he’s very special. But a lot of guys are very special. It’s a great problem to have.
“You have a lot of guys who are going to push each other and that can all play. There’s more guys on this team than you normally see that can be in the game that is no different than your ones.”
Daniels’ coach Kirby Smart was asked specifically if he thought his quarterback had the necessary arm talent to lead Georgia to where it wants to go.
Smart answered in the affirmative while also noting Daniels has the same set of skills that recent national title winners Joe Burrow and Mac Jones possessed.
“They were great decision-makers. They were actually better athletes than people give them credit for,” Smart said. “The decision-making process, touchdown-to-interception ratio, protecting the ball, using your playmakers, which both had really good playmakers around them, JT has those skill sets.”
Daniels himself has repeatedly noted that his decision-making process is an area he’s worked to improve on. He did so again on Tuesday when speaking in front of the SEC media contingent.
“That was something that no matter how fast the game gets, if I work well enough mentally and understand what I’m doing and get the ball in my playmakers’ hands, that’s my job,” Daniels said.
Daniels understands what the assignment is for Georgia in 2021. He is well aware of the pressure on both himself and the Georgia team this year.
It’s something Smart really admires in his quarterback. The Georgia head coach knows the quarterback position is a different animal compared to the rest of the team.
And he believes Daniels can make a real difference for the Bulldogs this season.
“I appreciate the thought that JT puts into the game plan. I appreciate the thought that he puts into the guys playing positions around him. That shows he’s a true quarterback and a true leader.”
JT Daniels shares his thoughts on Arik Gilbert