JT Daniels cleared to play vs Auburn, but will it help?

Head Coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Head Coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

JT Daniels has been cleared for contact and can suit up for this week’s game against Auburn, but will that help the Bulldogs quarterback mess?

According to DawgNation.com, UGA transfer quarterback JT Daniels will be cleared to play when the No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs Bulldogs face the No. 7 Auburn Tigers this week. However, head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t sound like he’s planning on changing the pecking order at QB just yet.

"“JT will be cleared, but I don’t know how much that changes the picture in terms of reps and development, we’ll be looking at everybody across the board. JT has got to be able to show us that he can function efficiently and do it with his knee being able to do it. We always thought he would be cleared by this time, anyway.”"

Those do not sound like the words of a head coach who’s ready to make a wholesale change at quarterback, regardless of the play at that position in the opener.

Truth is, Daniels probably isn’t game-ready at this time, and the Auburn defense loves to get after the quarterback, especially if they are green to the SEC. The Tigers sacked Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson twice last week, knocking him down at least five more times and continually hurrying him through his progressions.

So what now for JT Daniels and the Georgia Bulldogs?

Having Daniels now cleared to play and possibly taking more reps in practice could actually hinder Kirby Smart’s decision rather than help it. D’Wan Mathis was rattled early and taken out of the game in the second half against Arkansas, and while Stetson Bennett did a nice job of salvaging the win, he may not be the answer under center either.

What this all points to is that Kirby Smart has a mess on his hands, and he’s really only got two ways of handling it, either of which could mean the Bulldogs take a slight step backward this season.

First, he could go with a QB-by-committee approach and have specific packages installed for the rotation of two or even three quarterbacks. While this might be the most painless way to tackle the problem, it also creates the problem of who does the rest to the team look to as their leader on the field as well as possibly destroying in-game rhythm between quarterbacks and receivers.

Kirby took a similar approach with Jake Fromm and Justin Fields during the 2017 season, and we all know how that ended. While D’Wan Mathis is not quite the caliber player Fields is, it could create bad optics if another young dual-threat QB were to leave the program.

The other option is for Smart to make a decision and stick with it, giving the keys to the offense to one guy and saying, “it’s yours, now go do it”.

It’s hard to imagine that guy being JT Daniels right now given the circumstances. And if it is, how much rust will the former 5-Start prospect need to shake off? Is the trifecta of Auburn, Tennessee, and Alabama really the proving ground you want him to have?

No, despite Daniels’ medical clearance, he’ll probably need to hold the clipboard, watch the offense, help give pointers to Mathis, Bennett, or Carson Beck (should he be run out there at some point), and bide his time until either late-season or next year.

For now it would seem Georgia fans will have to hope for a lot of improvement from D’Wan Mathis, or another strong defensive showing with Stetson Bennett managing the game. The new toy JT Daniels will need to stay in the box for a little longer.

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