ATHENS -- JT Daniels will be staying at Georgia through the spring semester, but he won’t be working out with the team or attending practices.
The former Bulldogs’ team captain and starting quarterback will finish his psychology degree to become a graduate transfer and have eligibility for the 2022 season.
Several teams have offenses and potential needs at quarterback that would seem to suit Daniels’ strengths, including: Missouri, USC, LSU, West Virginia, Notre Dame, TCU, Oregon State, Penn State and Florida State.
Many of the schools have been in contact with Daniels, who will conduct several interviews with the coaches and make visits before making any decisions, per a source familiar with his situation.
“One thing about it, he’s a sponge,” UGA offensive coordinator Todd Monken said about Daniels. “He loves to be coached, loves to have the answers …. There’s a lot of things you can do with JT that you can keep it as quarterback control.”
Daniels, who isn’t expected to make a decision on his next school anytime soon, met with Smart the weekend following the Bulldogs’ 33-18 CFP Championship Game win to inform him of his intention to leave the program.
It was a scenario that seemed unlikely less than two years ago, when Daniels was brought in to win the job after Jake Fromm skipped his senior year to turn pro early, and transfer Jamie Newman struggled to get in sync with then-new offensive coordinator Todd Monken under stringent pandemic circumstances.
Daniels’ decision to leave the program seemed even more unthinkable last summer when Smart brought him to SEC Media Days to represent the program along with Jordan Davis, and oddsmakers elevated him to the top of Heisman Trophy favorites.
Daniels chose Georgia in May of 2020, onboard with Georgia’s vision at that time to run an offense that included more Air Raid principles.
Injuries to Daniels and elite receivers, however, led the Bulldogs to modify plans, and Stetson Bennett emerged from deep on the depth chart to lead much of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Daniels’ final start for Georgia came against Vanderbilt in the fourth game of the 2021 season. Daniels was 9-of-10 passing for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. He exited the game at the end of the first quarter with the Bulldogs up 35-0, having aggravated the upper-body injury that plagued him the first half of the season.
“JT being injured gave Stetson the opportunity to play in games and make the plays he’s made.” Coach Kirby Smart said. “You go back to the South Carolina game and JT played pretty well, right? Stetson had the interception I guess in the first series and first time he was in.
“Then Stetson got other opportunities to play after that and he’s done a tremendous job.”
Bennett recently announced he will come back for the 2022 season, the favorite to win the starting job in a crowded quarterback room that includes third-year QB Carson Beck, redshirt freshman Brock Vandagriff and incoming freshman Gunner Stockton.
Daniels was 7-0 as Georgia’s starting quarterback -- 4-0 in 2020, and 3-0 in 2021 -- and he currently has the highest career passer rating (168.1), completion percentage (69.5), yards per attempt (9.7) and yards passing per game started among Bulldogs’ quarterbacks who have had more than 100 attempts.
Smart complimented Daniels’ ability to stay prepared throughout the postseason, even as he served in a backup role and did not play in the final three games of the season.
“JT has done a tremendous job in all of our practices and all of our work,” Smart said. “Being able to be effective and understanding what we have to do offensively and making decisions.
“We get to see him go sometimes against the two defense, sometimes he gets to go against the one defense, just depending on what we are working on. He has done a good job of doing that.”