What’s next for UGA after Newman’s decision to opt out?

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What’s next for UGA after Newman’s decision to opt out?

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

The news of Jamie Newman deciding to opt out of the 2020 football season shook Dawg Nation as it took everyone by surprise.

All we’ve heard all offseason is that he will be the projected starter and could be a possible Heisman trophy candidate by season’s end. Well, not anymore. His decision to opt out comes just a few weeks before Georgia’s season opener at Arkansas on Sept. 26.

From what we’ve heard, Newman did fairly well last Saturday in UGA’s first scrimmage. Even though Smart said “we’re behind” in regards to the overall quarterback play, Newman had been adjusting in practice and turning some heads.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound triggerman signed with UGA back in January but his career in Athens only lasted about eight and a half months. The team missed spring practice due to COVID-19, and Newman only got to participate in 12 team practices. In addition, count the scrimmage and that’s about all he got to display to the UGA coaches.

He cited COVID-19 as the reason for him deciding to opt out, but lots of people are skeptical.

Some might say that he was getting beat out by USC transfer JT Daniels and saw the writing on the wall. We’ve been hearing great things about Daniels as well, but yet he hasn’t been cleared to play. Those rumors will now always circulate amongst fans, but Newman may be the only one to ever know.

Regardless, Smart first recruited Newman to replace Jake Fromm, but now that will never happen.

So, who’s next?

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

Georgia’s got a few options and they’re all pretty solid choices, if you were to ask me.

Right now, the decision to add Daniels to the roster back in May is certainly making Smart look intelligent (what a weird phrase). Daniels has the experience because he was USC’s starting quarterback back in 2018 and for the season opener against Fresno State in 2019. The reason he hasn’t been cleared yet is due to a torn ACL and other knee damage in that game against Fresno State last season. But apparently that injury hasn’t affected his ability to prepare for this season thus far because he’s been participating in practice.

“JT [Daniels] is not cleared still,” Smart said on Saturday. “You all think he’s cleared or what you think of is cleared. Cleared to me is, I can go out and play a full game of tackle football. He gets to scrimmage but he wouldn’t be cleared for a game in terms of contact yet. That factors into that decision and also the other guys, what they can do with their feet. Sometimes that’s a tough measurement at quarterback unless you go live with those guys.”

For right now, Daniels is clearly the favorite to win the starting job, but only if he’s cleared to play. Not saying he will though, but also not saying he won’t get clearance, either. But that’s obvious right now that he’s the projected starter because he’s the most experienced. Also, factor in all the buzz he’s been getting from teammates and coaches, and we all come to that conclusion.

Another candidate that is receiving a lot of hype if redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis. Dawgs247’s Rusty Mansell reported that Mathis has gotten off to a strong start and is impressing right away. It seems like the coaching staff is very excited about his potential because he has some physical attributes and abilities that separate him from the rest. Plus, he’s been with the team already for a season and that might give him a leg up, in terms of having a rapport with receivers. Regardless, he is still learning the offense just as the rest.

Take this for what it’s worth:

Fourth-year junior Stetson Bennett IV and freshman Carson Beck are the other candidates, and this is the time if either one wanted to make their move. While most consider to count them out, we don’t.

According to Smart, Bennett and Beck have both had their moments thought in practice.

Losing Newman will sting, especially if none of these candidates can produce. But, we think each of these guys has the potential to be great.

Daniels, a former five-star, has the intangibles but just needs to get a real chance to shine. He reclassified and started at USC a year earlier at a young age. Mathis, a former four-star, has been through a lot in the past year and a half, but is finally excelling at what does best. Even though he might need some polishing up, Mathis is a mobile quarterback that could fit well into Todd Monken’s system. Beck, a former four-star, has been with the team since January and has been learning the new system for a while. We just don’t know much about him. Bennett, a former three-star, has been UGA the longest. He was on the team when the Bulldogs made it to the national championship, and has since then left the program and come back.

“I’d like every one of them to be successful and do well,” said Smart this past weekend. “I don’t think anyone has separated if that’s what you’re asking. As far as the time table for that, I don’t have a time table for that.”

That quote was when Newman was still with the program, but we’d imagine that there is still no time table for when the starter will be announced.

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.