Kirby Smart: Quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and JT Daniels ‘evaluated each and every day’
ATHENS — Kirby Smart indicated he’s not handling the quarterback situation any differently than before as Georgia shifts into its CFP Orange Bowl preparation for Michigan.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs play the No. 2-ranked Wolverines at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 in Miami Gardens, Fla., on the heels of a 41-24 loss to No. 1-ranked Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
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The Tide plays No. 4 Cincinnati in the other CFP Semifinal, in the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Texas, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31.
Fifth-year senior Stetson Bennett and third-year sophomore JT Daniels have taken turns at quarterback for Georgia the past two seasons.
Daniels opened this season among the Heisman Trophy favorites as the Bulldogs’ starter before an injury kept him to the sidelines through most of October.
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Daniels is currently healthy with no issues that would prevent him from playing, but Bennett has held the starting job and continued to get first-team reps in the postseason.
No change appears imminent at the position, though Smart insists he’s keeping an open mind.
“I continue to say, and repeatedly say, both of those guys are evaluated each and every day,” Smart said at his press conference in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall on Wednesday.
“Stetson did some really good things in the Alabama game, (and) he made a couple of bonehead plays, as well, that he has not done in the games.”
Bennett was 29-of-48 passing for 340 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the loss to Alabama, including a Pick 6, two three-and-out series and two turnovers on downs.
“We put in a lot of disguises,” said Alabama safety Jordan Battle, who had the pivotal Pick-6 on one of the six drives Georgia failed to score on in the second half. “That was the big thing. Just have his eyes wandering around before the play.”
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Coach Nick Saban indicated the Tide took away many of Georgia’s first reads and more comfortable throws.
“I think that you try to change the picture as much as you can,” Saban said, and make the quarterback try to make decisions after he gets the ball in his hand.”
Bennett was sacked three times against Alabama and also rushed for two first downs, finishing with 11 yards on 7 rush attempts.
Smart made it clear he still believes in Bennett -- as well as Daniels and redshirt freshman Carson Beck and true freshman Brock Vandagriff.
“At the end of the day I think we have four really good quarterbacks in our system,” Smart said. “I really feel confident in four guys that can play quarterback for us.”
Indeed, Beck was actually the No. 2 quarterback in spring drills, and Smart said he was the No. 2 quarterback the week leading up to the second game of the season against UAB.
Bennett, however, impressed Smart so much in practices that he elevated him over Beck and started him against the Blazers.
Daniels returned from injury and started the next two games, against South Carolina and Vanderbilt, before re-aggravating a strained lat, opening the door for Bennett to take over the starting job once more.
Tailback James Cook, the only offensive player made available on Wednesday, has flourished with Bennett at quarterback as a runner and receiver. Cook does well with the short, flare passes in Todd Monken’s scheme.
“I got all the faith in Stetson,” said Cook, who was, asked about Bennett. “I mean. I’m riding with Stetson until the end. He got us to this point.”
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Smart has stopped short of naming Bennett the starter for the remainder of the season, but he indicated after the loss to Alabama there were some things for Bennett to “fix.”
On Wednesday, Smart kept the prospect of competition at all positions, including quarterback, more open.
“Just like we’ll reassess every single position,” Smart said, “just like I said after the game, we reassess everything, by how you practice (and)what you do.”
Smart, asked what he feels Bennett does better than Daniels, said he likes the mobility the Burlsworth Trophy finalist brings.
“His feet have been a blessing for us, his ability to run, scramble things open, and make plays with his feet have been good,” Smart said.
“He made a couple of poor decisions in the last game, but he’s not the only one that did that.
“We’ll continue to evaluate it.”