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Kirby Smart explains why JT Daniels can practice but isn’t yet cleared for Arkansas game

At no point has JT Daniels been cleared for game action during this fall for Georgia. But he has been cleared to practice and has done so with the Bulldogs for the last 17 practices.

With many expecting Jamie Newman to be the starter against Arkansas, it wasn’t seen as a huge problem that Daniels might not be ready for the season-opener. But now with Newman opting out, there’s become more focus on the health of Daniels’ surgically repaired knee.

Related: Kirby Smart on Georgia quarterbacks: Still rotating, ‘game-time decision’

Kirby Smart has remained optimistic that Daniels will be cleared. But the Georgia coach did go on to say that Daniels’ status for the first game is still very much up in the air.

“If we didn’t think he was going to be cleared then we wouldn’t be practicing him,” Smart said. “As far as we can tell, it will probably be a game-time decision.”

Daniels saw less work with the first team during the most recent scrimmage, with D’Wan Mathis getting most of the first teamwork. Daniels also didn’t take any reps with the second team, as he mostly worked in situational drills such as two-minute drill or third and long situations.

Related: The biggest question currently surrounding the Georgia quarterback battle is JT Daniels knee

Smart continued to reiterate that it is a medical decision on whether Daniels will be available or not for the first game against Arkansas. Daniels first tore the ACL on Aug. 31 of 2019 in a game against Fresno State.

On Tuesday, the Georgia coach though also revealed that Daniels had to have a second operation done on the knee in January.

“He had to go in and do some other things to help fix it from the original surgery,” Smart said. “That was before we even really knew about him or were with him. That put him behind a little bit.”

Smart added that for Daniels to be cleared he has to be able to be tackled and hit. Quarterbacks aren’t usually tackled or hit during practice, which is why Daniels has been allowed to practice with the Bulldogs.

As far as what the knee has to look like from a health standpoint, Smart did share what some of those medical questions that must be answered look like.

“It goes into flexibility,” Smart said. “It goes into strength, how far is the left knee from the right knee? What is the girth of the knee? What is the muscle mass missing? There’s a lot of things that go into that that the doctors have to do to clear him medically to take hits and be able to play.”

As a freshman at USC, Daniels threw 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He’s got 12 career starts under his belt, whereas Georgia’s other three quarterbacks have zero. He’s clearly got the experience edge over the rest of the Georgia quarterbacks.

Smart is going to have to make a decision on who will be Georgia’s starting quarterback. If Daniels were fully healthy, he’d be a massive factor in it and still figures to be.

But the biggest decision with regards to Daniels will not come from Smart, but the team’s medical staff.

“So the part about him getting cleared, we certainly expect him to get cleared and think he will get cleared. But that’s not my decision.

Kirby Smart shares the latest on JT Daniels

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