Uncertainty at the quarterback spot
Kirby Smart's expectations for quarterback JT Daniels being available for Saturday’s opener at Arkansas took a bit of a swerve during Monday’s Zoom session with reporters.
For weeks, Smart has said he “expected” the transfer from Southern Cal—who underwent ACL surgery just over a year ago—to be cleared to play by the time kickoff rolled around.
That clearance now appears very much up in the air.
“We hope JT will be cleared by Saturday, officially,” said Smart, not sounding quite as confident as he has in recent interviews.
Although Smart hasn't hinted where Daniels actually stood in the competition with D’Wan Mathis, Carson Beck and Stetson Bennett, more and more it appears Daniels may not quite be ready.
UGASports sources state that Mathis and Beck received most if not all the reps at quarterback during Friday’s most recent practice.
“I'm excited about the guys who have competed. They've all done a good job,” Smart said. “They've all taken reps. Stetson, Carson, JT and D’Wan have all done a good job, and I'm excited to see those guys go out and play.”
Should Mathis get the call, it will mark one of the biggest storylines in all of college football.
In May of 2019, Mathis underwent a craniotomy to remove a cyst from his brain, before ultimately returning to run the scout team leading up to the Sugar Bowl game against Baylor.
“D’Wan has done a great job. He has embraced every opportunity. He has competed, he has gotten better," said Smart. "He is very talented with his feet. He understands what we're asking him to do. I think he's done a great job preparing, and so have Carson, Stetson, and JT. They really all have done a good job preparing for this moment, and I feel comfortable with all of those guys.”
Wide receiver Kearis Jackson has been impressed with what he's seen, noting the redshirt freshman's work to get back on the field way back in early January, as soon as the team returned from New Orleans.
“He has a powerful arm, has a great spin on the ball. Just during the offseason and being able to come up to the facilities sometimes, it's been great to make that connection with all the quarterbacks,” Jackson said. “I know this offseason, we took it extra seriously about getting the extra throws in, getting that chemistry right. This offseason, all the quarterbacks threw well, but D’Wan’s speed and stuff is very special, for him to be able to have an arm and the speed as well. He will be a weapon.”
Smart said Mathis' ability to keep his composure despite the medical setbacks and players transferring into the team has aided his quest to see the field.
“He’s got great composure. He has never been a real emotionally up or down guy, which I think is a pretty good trait at quarterback. You look across the four guys we’ve got—they’re very similar in [that] none of them get really high or really low,” Smart said. They have had good days and bad days out on the practice field where they have made and thrown bonehead interceptions or took sacks and too many they could not take. None of them have handled it the wrong way, and D’Wan is the same way.”
Smart was asked about the effect Jamie Newman’s early presence had on Mathis’ development before the latter decided to opt out a few weeks ago.
“With the rotation we had going, it didn’t impact us much as it would have had he been there the entire time. We had minicamp days one through 11 that he (Newman) wasn’t able to go in throughout the first half of those, the latter part was when he got there,” Smart said. “We were able to give those reps to other guys and were probably fortunate that it happened when it happened in terms of trying to get a guy ready, because if it had gone up until this point or later, I can’t imagine where we’d be.”