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Kirby Smart tells ESPN his quarterback plan with regards to JT Daniels, Stetson Bennett

Georgia football-Kirby Smart-JT Daniels-Stetson Bennett
101621 Athens: Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (left) and JT Daniels prepare to play Kentucky in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Kirby Smart provided a positive update when it comes to the health of JT Daniels on Thursday. The Georgia head coach told ESPN’s Chris Low that Daniels appeared to be at his healthiest since the Vanderbilt game.

But Smart also didn’t outright name Daniels the starter. In his interview with Low, Smart explained why Daniels won’t be handed the ball and why Stetson Bennett will continue to play a key role with this team.

“I’m not sure we know who the better one is based on which game plan we have,” Smart told Low. “There are teams we play that we have to be able to use the quarterback in the run game. Well, that’s Stetson. There are teams we play that you have to get the ball out quickly and be really accurate. That’s JT. But the first thing with JT is that he’s got to be healthy.”

Related: Georgia football-Kentucky games perfectly illustrate improvement of Stetson Bennett

Daniels has missed the past three games with a lat injury. He also missed the game against UAB earlier this season with an oblique injury.

In those four missed starts, Bennett has been nearly flawless. He’s thrown 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Bulldogs are 4-0 in those starts, with the last three coming against Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky.

No one would confuse those teams with Alabama or Ohio State, but all three were ranked when they faced Georgia. And as far as Georgia’s regular-season schedule, the Bulldogs do not play a ranked team for the rest of the year.

Smart also openly acknowledged one of the biggest criticisms when it comes to Bennett.

“I think the feeling in the outside world is that you can’t win it all [the national championship] without JT,” Smart said. “I don’t know or can’t say that’s accurate or not. I know there’s nothing that he’s shown that Stetson hasn’t shown us that leads us to believe that’s the case.”

Related: Georgia quarterback JT Daniels back in team drills, ‘a little rust there’

Many feel that way given Bennett’s performance against Alabama last season. The Bulldogs had a halftime lead against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but proceeded to score zero second-half points in a 41-24 defeat. Bennett suffered a shoulder injury in the loss to Florida and he was ultimately benched for Daniels.

Smart pointed out that while the offense has not been truly great this season, it has certainly been good enough. Regardless of who has been under center, the Bulldogs have scored 30 points in all five of their SEC games.

It should also be noted that Georgia has not been working with a full complement of skill players this season. George Pickens, Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson, Arian Smith, Kenny McIntosh and Darnell Washington have all been limited or missed time this season. On Thursday it was learned the running back Kendall Milton suffered an MCL injury that will sideline him for multiple weeks.

Related: Kendall Milton suffers MCL injury in practice, expected to miss time

Yet Bennett and Daniels have been able to make things work with the emergence of Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell.

The Bulldogs also have the nation’s No. 1 defense, which has given up just 6.6 points per game so far.

Georgia is off this week, giving Daniels and others more time to heal this before a pivotal game against the Florida Gators. Dan Mullen’s team is 4-3 on the season yet spent the first half of the year ranked inside the top-10. The game is set for a 3:30 p.m. ET start.

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