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Georgia’s increased quarterback options might not be the worst thing in the world
For the last two seasons, Georgia has been walking a very fine line at the quarterback position. In 2018, Georgia had just Jake Fromm and Justin Fields at the quarterback position on scholarshup. Fortunately neither get hurt and we were never left wondering what walk-on Matthew Downing would look like.
In 2019 it was largely the same set-up, only Fields had been replaced by Stetson Bennett. Georgia had signed D’Wan Mathis, but due to emergency brain surgery, he was inactive for the entire season. When Fromm briefly went down with an injury in the SEC championship game, the depth concerns were realized as Bennett entered the game. Fromm only missed a few plays, but the point was made.
And since that game, even with Fromm’s departure for the NFL draft, the Bulldogs have gone a long way to shore up that situation.
Georgia first brought in Carson Beck, a 4-star quarterback in the 2020 recruiting cycle. He enrolled in January, the same month Georgia also added Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman. Given his upside and Georgia’s new offense, there was plenty of excitement regarding his transfer into the program.
Then in May, Georgia continued to add to the quarterback room from a scholarship count. The Bulldogs brought in USC quarterback JT Daniels. He might not be immediately eligible — more on that in a moment — but at the very least he does provide clarity for what the future of the quarterback room will look like.
The same day Georgia landed Daniels, it also learned that Mathis was cleared for contact for the 2020 season. So even if Daniels doesn’t get a waiver from the NCAA, the Bulldogs will have four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for this upcoming season.
Depth figures to be an even bigger deal in the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Say teams test their players on Friday before heading out to a road game. Then a player happens to test positive. That player is out at the last minute and the team will need a capable player to step up on short notice.
The team’s with superior depth, and even just available bodies, will be best positioned to win this season. At spots like a linebacker, defensive back and wide receiver, Georgia figures to be very well off.
If Daniels is eligible for this season, you can certainly add the quarterback position to that list. Even if Newman is the starter, having a player in Daniels who has started double-digit games at a Power-5 level is a massive luxury.
Of course, it’s not yet known whether Daniels will be able to play this season. He’s still waiting on his waiver to get approved and the NCAA traditionally hasn’t issued those waivers in the most timely manner. How comfortable would Kirby Smart feel giving Daniels reps with the first team if it’s the middle of August and it’s still not known if he’ll be able to play for Georgia in 2020?
If Daniels does get immediate eligibility and he does win the job, that’s another talented option that Georgia can roll with at the quarterback spot. Both Daniels and Newman have an injury history and the likes of Alabama, Florida and South Carolina all saw their week 1 starting quarterbacks go down with season-ending injuries.
Now for the downside with Daniels and what is now an overcrowded quarterback room. Georgia is installing a new offense and it hasn’t had a chance to take a single on-field practice rep with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken on the field to observe it.
“We don’t even know the threshold or the capacity of some of our players,” Smart said in a Zoom call with reporters. “We did not get to go through spring ball with necessarily some of the positions, especially on offense, of guys to see what they can handle.”
Smart also stressed the importance of experience this season. And Georgia doesn’t have a lot of that on the offensive side of the ball. It will have a new quarterback, running back, three new starters on the offensive line and multiple pass-catching options to replace
With Georgia having a new offense and not a lot of experience from the quarterbacks running it, the practice reps Georgia gets in late July and August are going to be crucial.
And the Bulldogs are going to try and find the balance between getting every quarterback reps in the system so that they become familiar with it but also giving one quarterback enough reps so that there is chemistry with the rest of the offensive unit.
What separates the Clemson’s and Alabama’s from even the Michigan’s and Auburn’s isn’t the lack of top-end talent. Those latter two schools always have 22 very good players. It’s the fact that the super-elite teams have 44 or more capable players. Georgia certainly finds itself in that category.
It’s a big reason the Bulldogs have been able to get to the SEC championship game in recent seasons, even if Georgia hasn’t had it at the quarterback position.
This year it has good quarterback depth. But it lacks the clear cut starter it has in year’s past, which only compounds the difficulties of having a new offense.
Having Daniels, Newman, Mathis, Bennett and Beck is a good problem to have for Georgia. But sorting out who gets the most reps and finding the best option, especially if Daniels becomes eligible, will be a tricky needle to thread.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
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- Georgia football parent Chris Milton remains ‘unshaken’ in his fight for equality
- Limited seating option details among Georgia football stadium operations plans released
- Georgia football podcast: ESPN gives UGA a backhanded compliment
- SEC Media Days to go virtual, live event previously scheduled in Atlanta canceled
- MJ Morris: How new Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has prioritized the elite 2022 QB
- What the latest Heisman Trophy and national title odds tell us about the Georgia quarterback competition
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