ATHENS — Kirby Smart has a vision of how the Georgia football offense could look this season, but certain things have yet to crystalize as the Bulldogs open fall camp on Monday.
The biggest questions, for starters (quite literally), are which quarterback will be under center and how the offense unfolds from there.
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“We are much closer now to being able to have a vision and understanding,” Smart said on Sunday, asked how Georgia’s reload is going after UGA lost its starting backfield and three offensive linemen from last season’s team to the NFL.
“The key to us: Who is the quarterback, who is able to lead the team, and what gives us the best chance to get the ball to the playmakers out in space.”
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The top two quarterback candidates entering camp are the two most experienced, Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman and USC transfer JT Daniels.
Newman has shown a big arm and brings great mobility to the table.
Daniels was known for accuracy and field vision at USC.
Smart indicated he’s not ruling out redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis, freshman Carson Beck or redshirt junior Stetson Bennett, either.
No one on the team has opted out for the season, Smart said, including those five scholarship quarterbacks.
“That room is going to be very competitive, and we’re excited to see where it goes,” Smart said. “Those guys, each one of them, has been in a competitive room before.
“Jamie [Newman] competed at Wake Forest. JT [Daniels] had to compete where he was. Carson [Beck] is going to be in one of the most competitive rooms he’s ever been in before. D’Wan [Mathis] was in the room last year. Stetson [Bennett] has been a part of that.
“Competition is part of the process.”
New offensive coordinator Todd Monken is known for his “Air Raid” attack, and Smart made it clear he’s still open to doing whatever it takes to put points on the scoreboard.
When NFL backs D’Andre Swift, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were in the backfield the past few seasons, running the football made a lot of sense.
But there’s new offensive talent on the roster, an influx of talent at receiver and veteran Florida State tight end transfer Tre’ McKitty.
Smart wants the talent maximized and points lighting up the scoreboard.
“I believe in doing whatever you have to do to win, we want to get the best football players we can on the field,” Smart said. “We want to be able to score points.”
And with Monken, whose NFL Tampa Bay offense set franchise records in 2018, this offense looks to be well-groomed.
“He’s very demanding, he has an expectation of what it should look like in his job,” Smart said. “What he loves doing is trying to do each individual job better than the next guy.”
It’s up to the quarterbacks, young and old, to take to the coaching.
“For a quarterback more than anything, you want to be coached the right way, and you want to be developed,” Smart said. “Part of development is taking reps, making practice.”
Newman has recovered from a sprained foot that limited him during the walk-through portion of offseason workouts in July.
Daniels remains in a protective knee brace, keeping him from being completely cleared by Smart’s definition even as he takes reps.
Smart sounds confident.
“We haven’t put a pad on, we haven’t put a helmet on,” he said. “I’m excited about what the guys have been able to pick up on and do.
“I’ve been able to see it first-hand when you go out on the field and see some good, young, talented players that have been able to go out and pick things up.”
Smart will pick the quarterback that makes the offense most effective — whatever it takes.
“Those guys are going to be judged and evaluated every day on how they command the huddle, how do they respond to an interception, what do they do when they make a bust,” Smart said. “Are they making the right check? Are they making the right decisions? Can they use their feet to extend plays?
“All of those things are going to be used to judge and to make the best decision for who gives us the best chance to win.”
Each of the quarterbacks will have an opportunity to showcase attributes in the coming weeks.
“It’s going to be important that we find out what each one of those individual strengths are, and weaknesses,” Smart said. “and what we can improve over the next four or five weeks to figure out who the best guy for the job is.”
Georgia, by SEC guidelines, can’t put on full pads until its fifth team practice, anyway.
The Bulldogs have 40 days to get in 25 practices leading up to the opening game on Sept. 26.
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The SEC Network will reveal each team’s opening opponent at 3 p.m. on Monday during the Paul Finebaum Show, with the complete scheduled released at 7 p.m. on the SEC Now show also on the SEC Network.
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