Even with JT Daniels entrenched, quarterback position still has plenty of spring intrigue
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Even with JT Daniels settled, Georgia football quarterback position still has plenty of spring storylines
At the top of the quarterback depth chart for Georgia, there should be little drama for the Bulldogs this spring.
A few months after Georgia cycled through three starting quarterbacks during the 2020 season and saw a fourth opt-out just weeks before the season, JT Daniels is clearly entrenched as the starter.
Daniels took over the starting role in Georgia’s final four games. The Bulldogs won all four contests, as Daniels tossed 10 touchdowns to 2 interceptions over that span.
The California native had the opportunity to declare for the 2021 NFL Draft in January. Instead, he announced he was returning to Georgia for another season.
In the run-up to Georgia’s final game against Cincinnati, Daniels spoke about wanting to improve, especially as he gets more time with offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
“We speak the same language, especially in terms of football. It’s something that I learn more as the season goes on,” Daniels said prior to the Peach Bowl. “It’s something that I got to learn originally when we were on Zoom calls when I was getting recruited here. We used to watch film, do whatever we could through transfer portal rules.
“I think it’s just grown and developed.”
Found my new home, now we got unfinished business
Go Dawgs 2021 pic.twitter.com/UgAMJb5ToL
— JT Daniels (@jtdaniels06) January 5, 2021
Unlike a season ago, when Daniels was still at USC and Georgia’s spring practice was canceled, the two will get to work together for 15 practices this spring. With the Bulldogs also returning their top seven pass catchers, expectations are high for Daniels and the offense to take another step forward in 2021. That starts during spring practices in March and April.
Daniels though isn’t the only quarterback worth following this spring. The competition behind Daniels is perhaps even more intriguing.
Bennett started five games for the Bulldogs in 2020, taking over for D’Wan Mathis before ultimately getting replaced by Daniels. During that stretch, Bennett led the Bulldogs in wins over Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky.
It is was the play in the losses though that defined Bennett. He threw four interceptions in games against Alabama and Florida. Even worse, the offense scored zero second-half points in the two games when he was playing quarterback. Bennett did pick up an injury against Florida, but after Daniels’ impressive performance against Mississippi State, the job was clearly his.
Mathis went on to transfer to Temple. Bennett is still around. And as we saw in the Peach Bowl against Cincinnati, he is the first choice off the bench in the event something happens to Daniels. Bennett came in for a single play and completed a 12-yard pass while Daniels was having his helmet adjusted following a sack.
While the fan base might be more eager to see one of Beck or Vandagriff, having a player with starting experience in the SEC as back-up is a tremendous luxury. If Georgia is going to accomplish its goals in 2021, it will obviously need Daniels to stay healthy to do so. Still, Bennett helps provide depth at the quarterback position and we saw how critical that was for Georgia last season.
Most of the attention though on the back-up spot won’t go to Bennett. There is legitimate interest and intrigue in seeing how Beck and Vandagriff play this spring as they represent the future of the quarterback position.
This will be Beck’s first spring practice as COVID-19 prevented the drills from taking place during his first year on campus. Beck was the only scholarship quarterback to not start for Georgia during the 2020 season. His only game action came against Missouri and the redshirt freshman from Jacksonville, Fla., didn’t attempt a pass.
Beck was a one-time Alabama commit and also drew serious interest from Florida before settling on the Bulldogs. He also won a state championship at Florida’s highest-level as a junior. While he wasn’t the 5-star prospect that Daniels and Vandagriff were, he was still a 4-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite rankings.
He also has a couple of advantages over the younger Vandagriff. Beck already has spent a full year in Monken’s system. Beck also isn’t dealing with injury concerns.
Vandagriff suffered a torn PCL during his senior season in high school. The 5-star 2021 signee played through it and ultimately led his team to a state championship. While it was initially thought he would need surgery, Georgia decided against and that rest and rehab would be the best way for Vandagriff to get healthy.
Long-term though, Vandagriff posses a lot of upside. It’s easy to see why Kirby Smart and Monken have raved about what Vandagriff will bring to the program.
“I think what you’re getting is a high-level competitor,” Monken said. “It’s one thing being around him, for a young man, he loves to compete. He loves football. He loves the weight room.”
It is not yet known if Vandagriff will be fully cleared for contact this spring because of the injury. As Vandagriff and Beck vie to be the guy to eventually replace Daniels, this spring will be a first look into what that competition will one day look like.
Between their development, how Bennett factors in and Daniels’ potential improvement the quarterback situation should be just as fascinating to follow this spring. Fortunately, it shouldn’t have nearly as much drama as the 2020 season produced.
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