When JT Daniels committed to Georgia on May 28, 2020, he was more of a curiosity than a known entity.
A year later, there’s still an intense curiosity surrounding Daniels. But it’s a very different type compared to what the quarterback was dealing with this time last year.
Following the Newman opt-out, the questions surrounding Daniels’ knee ramped up. Turns out it wasn’t ready to start the season, which led to Georgia starting D’Wan Mathis in the season-opener against Arkansas.
Stetson Bennett ended up coming in to save the day against the Razorbacks. The following Monday, Smart opened his press conference by declaring that Daniels was finally cleared to play. But Bennett got the start against Auburn and played well in a 27-6 win for Georgia.
Bennett couldn’t continuously deliver as he did against the Razorbacks and the Tigers. Georgia lost to Alabama and then lost in rather embarrassing fashion against Florida. Bennett picked up a shoulder injury against Florida and was replaced in the second half by Mathis.
Daniels finally got his chance to play against Mississippi State. His performance that day only led to more questions, as he threw for 401 yards and four touchdowns. It was the best statistical performance by a Georgia quarterback since Kirby Smart took over as head coach.
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Smart and Daniels both insisted this was the first time the Georgia quarterback had been ready to go. While some wondered what Georgia would’ve looked like with Daniels starting against Alabama and Florida, Daniels went 4-0 as the starting quarterback to cap the season.
Following a come-from-behind win against unbeaten Cincinnatti, Daniels looked like the kind of quarterback that could be a championship difference-maker.
“The game is definitely slowing down to a certain extent,” Daniels said in April. “I’ve gotten better at eliminating unnecessary things to look at pre-play. And something else I’ve been working on is decision-making and not making bad plays worse.”
He backed that up this spring with his performance in the G-Day scrimmage. He threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns. The performance was all the more impressive when you consider he was without George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Arian Smith and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
“There’s been a lot of improvement to me overall personally and also with a lot of guys stepping up in the receiver room,” Daniels said after G-Day. “There’s a lot better chemistry that you notice from the spring game compared to the 180, when I was first starting to rep with the 1s.”
Now the questions around Daniels aren’t focused on his health or what he could potentially bring to the Georgia offense. They’re more centered on just how far he can take this Georgia team.
After Pickens tore his ACL, Daniels easily became the most important and possibly talented Bulldog on the team. If Georgia is going to win a national championship, Daniels is going to be the one who leads them there.
Daniels spent almost all of his first year in Athens, working on building a rapport with his receivers. He didn’t return to his native California until this past week. And when he finally did, it was with a number of Georgia skill players. They spent the week continuing to develop and build chemistry.
Related: 3 Georgia football takeaways from JT Daniels’ California vacation with teammates
The Georgia quarterback will return to Athens at the start of next week as the Bulldogs begin their summer workouts. You can now expect Daniels to be one of the more vocal members and leaders on the team. That wasn’t the case when he first showed up last June.
Even with all that we now know about Daniels and how the 2020 season played out, there’s still a curiosity about what Daniels will look like for Georgia.
But it’s no longer a question of what he might bring to the quarterback room or how healthy his surgically repaired knee is. With Daniels in 2021, the big question is just how great can Daniels be?
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