ATHENS — Georgia quarterback JT Daniels was named the SEC co-offensive player of the week after his electrifying passing performance in the 31-24 win over Mississippi State, while receiver Jermaine Burton was the league’s Freshman of the Week.
Daniels was 28-of-38 passing for 401 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. It was the first 400-yard passing performance for a UGA quarterback since SEC all-time passing leader Aaron Murray had 415 in a 2013 loss to Auburn.
Burton turned in a season-best 8 catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns, also landing him on the FWAA’s national “Fresh Four” list as one of the top four freshman performances.
Daniels is the first player on the No. 13-ranked Bulldogs (5-2) team to earn offensive player of the week honors from the SEC. Burton is the first UGA player as the SEC’s Freshman of the Week.
Coach Kirby Smart, whose team plays at South Carolina at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, made it clear there’s more work to be done for both Daniels and Burton.
“There’s always a lot of room for improvement,” Smart said on his Monday Zoom call. “In terms of protections and understanding where Trey (Hill) has things going, and where he is pointing things, getting that correct comes through experience.
“In terms of his eyes in certain routes, there were a couple of things that he had his eyes on the wrong side, but he threw the ball well and was very accurate. He protected the ball, he made good decisions with the ball.”
Indeed, Daniels was 10-of-11 passing for 144 yards on third down-throws, in addition to being the first UGA quarterback to have more than 400 yards in his first start.
Georgia had four pass plays of more than 40 yards on Saturday after having just three through the first six games combined. Three of Saturday’s 40-yard-plus passes were to Burton.
Smart indicated it just illustrates that the plays were there to be made all along.
“We had the same game plan that we really had with the other quarterbacks,” Smart said.
Tight end John FitzPatrick also said big plays aren’t necessarily dependent on Daniels being at quarterback.
“It was exciting to see his big, explosive plays, (but) I wouldn’t say that it was quarterback dependent,” FitzPatrick said. “I think it was more of putting everything together.
“The first few games, we hadn’t put everything together. Against Mississippi State, we did put it together and hit our deep shots.”
As for Burton, Smart said the freshman receiver is working hard.
“There’s a lot of potential to grow, in terms of…he doesn’t block the right guy all the time, he doesn’t know all of his assignments, he doesn’t know his split,” Smart said. “The things you guys see, the public sees, are awesome, so I want him to be the complete player he can be. I want him to help benefit our team in terms of second-level run game, getting runs started.
“There were a couple of runs that didn’t get started which you could say was his fault because he didn’t do the right thing. So, it’s not like he doesn’t have room to improve. He does. But the thing about Jermaine is he cares. That’s important to him.”