Over the spring, the Georgia Bulldogs added to their quarterback room with two transfer recruits. Could the newest Georgia quarterback, JT Daniels, land the starting job over graduate transfer Jamie Newman when the 2020 college football season starts?
After the 2019 season came to a close, the Georgia program was left with nothing but question marks at the QB position. In recent years, they’ve let former five-star quarterback recruits like Jacob Eason and Justin Fields walk out the door. Jake Fromm’s decision to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft left them with Carson Beck as the heir apparent for a program otherwise stacked with talent.
However, after a busy transfer period, they now have potentially one of the tastiest battles for the starting QB job of any college football program.
They landed Newman as a graduate transfer from Wake Forest earlier in the year. Newman led the Demon Deacons to a 6-0 start in 2019, racking up 2,868 passing yards and adding another 574 yards on the ground with 32 total touchdowns in his first full season as a starter. As the Bulldogs presumptive starter for the longest time, Newman has received first-round buzz as a 2021 NFL Draft prospect.
With Daniels’ May 29th announcement that he would transfer to Georgia from USC, that presumption no longer exists. Georgia has a genuine quarterback battle for the 2020 season as long as Daniels is granted immediate eligibility from the NCAA, something that is far from guaranteed and unclear at the time of writing.
If he can play in 2020, could Daniels unseat Newman as the Georgia starting quarterback?
New Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has the talent to win the starting job
Daniels was a highly decorated high school quarterback at Mater Dei, a high school with a reputation for producing top-level football talent. He won the 2017 Gatorade National Player of the Year Award as well as being voted to the first-team All-USA. Over his final two years at Mater Dei, he compiled astonishing passing statistics, throwing for 8,972 yards at an incredible 73.15% completion percentage.
His touchdown to interception ratio in those seasons was 119:10.
As a five-star recruit, Daniels was rated the number two “pro-style” quarterback in the nation. It just so happened that in leaving Mater Dei early, he fell into a recruiting class with a young man called Trevor Lawrence. In any other year, he would have been the best of the bunch.
Daniels impressed as a true freshman at USC in 2018. There were the understandable growing pains, including as many interceptions thrown in one season as his previous two high school campaigns. However, in the season finale against a college football playoff-bound Notre Dame, Daniels showcased his ability with a career-high 349-yard game and a 72.5% completion percentage.
So JT Daniels has an arm, huh?
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 14, 2018
The ACL tear suffered in the season opener against Fresno State deprived the college football world of a sophomore season where he could have elevated himself further. In the first quarter of that game, Daniels went 15 of 17 for 114 yards and a touchdown, showcasing the high level of accuracy that is one of his greatest traits.
Despite Newman’s success for Wake Forest in 2019 and his obvious ability as a dual-threat quarterback with a strong arm, there is no doubt that Daniels is the more talented option as the starter for Georgia football in the fall.
Then there’s the fit in the Georgia offense.
The new scheme can spice up a lackluster Georgia offense
In recent times, the Georgia football offense has relied heavily on the run game behind stars like D’Andre Swift, Sony Michel, and Todd Gurley. Their success has been as much about defensive dominance than it has about offensive fire power. Kirby Smart came under pressure after a lackluster offensive display in 2019 and reacted by bringing in former NFL offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
How Monken intends to run the Georgia offense in 2020 will be one of the biggest influences over who wins the starting job. If the Bulldogs use a lot of run-pass option concepts, as has been suggested through the offseason, then Newman would have a clear advantage. He showcased his skills on the ground with 574 rushing yards in 2019 and has a high school history of success as a rushing quarterback.
That’s not to say that Daniels can’t compete on that front either. In his final season at Mater Dei, he rushed for 561 yards on 63 carries for an average of 8.9 yards per carry. His high school career was also characterized by football intelligence, with scouts noting an advanced ability to read and react to the defense. He flashed examples of elusiveness and mobility during 2018, most noticeably against Stanford where he evaded pressure in the pocket and scrambled for a long gain on the ground.
Where Daniels could excel for Georgia is rooted in Monken’s previous college success. He was the architect behind an Oklahoma State offense that averaged over 500 passing yards per game during the 2011-2012 seasons. If Monken brings that “Air Raid” system to the Bulldogs it would suit Daniels perfectly, having come from a USC offense that ran a similar scheme during his time there.
Who will start?
The talent and fit align perfectly for Daniels to be the Georgia quarterback come the opening day of the season. Although Newman has been with the program longer, the lack of a normal spring schedule means that both players go into fall camp on a level playing field, negating any advantage that Newman would have had over Daniels in regular circumstances.
After a year sidelined by injury, Daniels now faces an anxious wait as to whether he will be eligible to play in 2020. If he isn’t, then Newman will have the opportunity to enhance his 2021 NFL Draft stock on a championship ready team before handing over to Daniels in 2021.
If he is cleared to play, Daniels has every chance to win the starting job and will have three years of eligibility before handing over the reins to another five-star recruit in standout Brock Vandagriff.