Georgia quarterback JT Daniels put on a spectacular performance in the annual G-Day spring game this past weekend.
Daniels wasted no time as he picked up where he left off last year. The Southern Cal transfer completed 28 of 41 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Red team defeated the Black 28-23 on Saturday.
Despite producing another 300-yard plus performance through the air, Daniels said after the scrimmage, “...it was just another day for us.”
He added that it was his receivers and tight ends who really put in the work.
“We’ve seen receivers AD, D-Rob, and Kearis Jackson, and all the guys, make plays like that before,” he said.
He refers to freshman wideout Adonai Mitchell, who goes by the nickname “AD.” Mitchell led all Georgia receivers on Saturday with seven receptions for 105 yards and a score. Senior “D-Rob”, Demetris Robertson, had four receptions and 88 yards for a score, while Jackson hauled in four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
“I think that’s a really good quarterback room and a good system,” Daniels said. “Everybody is about their job to get better every day. I think you saw it in a spring game, where certain things are simplified and made a little easier.”
Last season, Daniels started the last four games of the season and ended his redshirt sophomore campaign by completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,231 yards, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. The Golden State native elevated Georgia’s passing game in those four appearances and has been named Georgia’s starting signal-caller heading into the 2021 season.
Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart spoke highly of his quarterback following the scrimmage.
“He has command of the offense and he understands it,” Smart said. “The key is his decision-making process. At the quarterback position, there’s probably a decision that has to be made every single play. And he manages that really well for us.”
The only real problem Daniels dealt with last season and again on Saturday was getting rid of the ball to avoid sacks. Georgia’s offensive line is going through changes, but every candidate that started for the Red squad on Saturday has starting experience. However, the Black team (first-team defense) totaled four sacks on Daniels.
A positive is that Daniels completed passes to eight different pass catchers, with four of them being a combination of running backs, tight ends and a backup quarterback. He found running backs Zamir White and James Cook for a total of 12 passes for 111 yards, while tight end John FitzPatrick had one catch for seven yards. Walk-on quarterback Nathan Priestly lined up in the slot and caught a solo pass for eight yards.
Daniels admitted that he doesn’t mind throwing to pass catchers who run shorter routes.
“I love throwing the ball deep, and you see it a lot,” he said, “but, especially when you’ve got guys like James Cook, Zamir White and all the other guys we have. I think check-downs, in general, are the most underrated, underappreciated aspect of the offense.”
Daniels added that it’s a great way to get the ball out quickly if a defender is in pursuit of him.
“At a bare minimum, it’s a gain of at least three yards,” he said, “and that’s if the first defender makes the tackle. That’s very rare for the first guy to tackle any of our running backs.”
Smart said that is something that Daniels has really worked on in the offseason, and with a few games under his belt as a starter at Georgia, that he should soon finally understand what he has as weapons. The sixth-year coach also added that the rapport Daniels has been building over the past year with the offense is finally starting to come full circle.
“He had command then,” Smart said in reference to the 2020 season. “He ha command of the offense now. But this year, he has a better understanding of his weapons. He’s got a boatload more reps with each one of those weapons. I’m excited about what he can do.”
Behind Daniels, sophomore Carson Beck started for the black squad. The Floridian completed 22 of 31 passes for 236 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Beck rarely saw the field last year as a freshman, but his solid performance on Saturday provides hope that Daniels will have a certified backup before the season starts.
“He had some good spring scrimmages,” Smart said of Beck. “He had some good outings out there in the spring. We thought he could throw the ball well. He had a really good practice on Thursday. In terms of taking command of the offense, making decisions, using the players around him. He’s got a really good pocket presence.”
Highly touted freshman Brock Vandagriff was the other Georgia quarterback to impress. The former No. 1 overall signal-caller in the 2020 recruiting class completed six of nine passes for 47 yards. Despite not having impressive stats, Vandagriff showcased his strong arm several times, but he also impressed his teammates and coaches with his speed. During his first drive, he was flushed out of the pocket and, scrambled downfield for a 13-yard gain.
Smart was asked in his postgame press conference if this was the deepest quarterback room he’s while at Georgia.
He responded: “I don’t know.”
It’s a tough question because he’s had, for a brief time, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, and Justin Fields all in one room at UGA.
“Top to bottom, I certainly feel really good about all four of them,” he said. “I do not know that I could ever say that I had four that I was confident about. These four, I feel really good about. I think they are good football players. I think they are bright, they are intelligent, they challenge themselves. It is hard to compare it to other years. We have certainly had a talented quarterback room before, but with four guys you feel good about, it is hard to have that in college football.
“I thought they challenged themselves, and we set our practices up where they get to develop. You only got to see a piece of that today, and it is unfortunate. Today, there was only one quarterback on the field at a time. In our practices, a lot of times there are two out there, and there are more reps available. We are trying to get their growth to happen a little faster than it would normally without getting the reps.”