For the first time in almost two months, Georgia returns home this weekend to play under the lights in Sanford Stadium against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs from Athens, Ga., and Starkville, Ms. both dealt with game cancellations this past weekend, although both head coaches are confident they will play this upcoming Saturday amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. If the game is played, this will be the first time both teams have competed since Nov. 7.
Both programs are currently having offensive struggles as of late and are dealing with a quarterback debacle. Although, Georgia’s signal-caller situation seems to be a little bit more of a question mark. Last week, the competition was between JT Daniels, D’wan Mathis and Carson Beck in practice.
The usual starter has been Stetson Bennett, but the former walk-on was benched in the second half of the Florida game. Bennett has also been dealing with an AC Joint sprain on his shoulder, which kept him out of last week’s practices.
Per usual, fifth-year head coach, Kirby Smart, didn’t open up about the quarterback carousel on Monday when he met with reporters.
“No,” Smart said firmly when asked about who the starter would be. “The competition is going to continue throughout practice like it did last week.”
Rumors surrounding the program this past week were that Daniels was going to be named the starter if Georgia would’ve played Missouri. The USC transfer took first-team reps and split them with Mathis earlier on in the week.
Daniels has been medically cleared for almost eight weeks now after he suffered a knee injury that ended his 2019 season while at USC. He’s been out of a knee brace for the past couple of weeks, but his health is a topic of concern.
Georgia’s offense has not seen much efficient quarterback play since the last time they were at home against Tennessee.
Bennett has had his fair share of opportunities against two better teams in Alabama and Florida but showed his ceiling in those games. Meanwhile, Mathis didn’t show any improvement against Florida after he took over for Bennett in Georgia’s 44-28 loss. The pair of quarterbacks missed several open receivers against the Gators that could have led to points and a potential comeback.
That leads to the question: Could Georgia’s offense look any better under the direction of an experienced transfer quarterback?
Well, it wouldn’t hurt to try and that’s because, for the first time in four seasons, the Bulldogs don’t control their own destiny. Florida will more than likely clinch the SEC East and that leaves Georgia to possibly focus on the future. With no hope of making the College Football Playoffs, maybe the best option is just that itself.
Smart said that the team needs to finish out the season strong, regardless of who will be under center.
“You just try to make the best decision you can to give your team an opportunity to win,” Smart said. “That’s what we try to do with all our decisions, regardless if it’s the quarterback or not.”
Georgia enters the contest against Mississippi State ranked 60th in scoring, 76th in total offense and 80th in passing efficiency.
Surely with Daniels at quarterback, the floodgates would open up and the passing game would be elevated to a whole new level; which is something that offensive coordinator Todd Monken has been trying to do all season.
Georgia fifth-year senior Ben Cleveland weighed in on the quarterback situation.
“It was a very smooth transition,” Cleveland said when asked about what it was like to not have Bennett in the rotation. “JT (Daniels) has spent a lot of time working on himself. He’s been running 90 percent of the scout team offense. He’s been really focusing on learning the playbook, getting himself healthy and preparing himself for this moment. I will say that about all our quarterbacks—they’ve all been prepared when their number was called, and I don’t expect this to be any different.”
Even though Cleveland’s comment seem to be unclear, he did state that “it wasn’t a negative” to have multiple guys competing for the starting job.
“I don’t think that’s a problem. I would consider that to be more of a positive than anything,” Cleveland said. “It’s like any other position. You want to have good depth with guys who can go in there and compete at any given time. So, I think having three, four guys back there rolling in—I think that’s definitely been a positive for us, just because it gives us that extra backbone we need should something go wrong.”
Georgia junior running back James Cook said that whoever the starter is, they need to have confidence in themselves before taking the field.
“Make sure they’re going to go out there and do the best job that they can do,” Cook said. “We just need to be on their back and make sure you’re with them every step of the way and every drive.”
Cook said there really is no difference in all the different options.
“They just need to have the confidence to go out there and do it and win the games for us,” Cook said. “From Stetson, D’Wan or JT, any one of those guys can go out there and do it if they have confidence. Whoever the guy is, they’ll go out there and we’ll make sure they have confidence and we’ll go out and win.”
Here it the video from Smart’s presser: