5 takeaways on what Jamie Newman's opt-out means for Georgia, JT Daniels, SEC race
Ho hum. Another afternoon, another massive opt-out. No big deal.
The Jamie Newman era ended before it ever really began. Well, I shouldn’t say that it didn’t begin. Before the grad transfer opted out of the 2020 season, he got preseason Heisman Trophy buzz, he had a few cool workout videos posted and he became as polarizing a topic as any for SEC fans the past several months.
Needless to say, Newman’s decision to leave Georgia and prepare for the NFL Draft has an impact that’s far more than just 1 player on the depth chart who won’t play football.
Let’s dig into that:
1. I’m truly bummed we won’t get to see Jamie Newman in Todd Monken’s offense
Yeah, I was excited to see what Newman was going to do airing it out. This is a Georgia offense that has been starved for someone who can consistently stretch the field. Only Joe Burrow had more touchdown passes thrown into a tight window last year than Newman (PFF). Call me crazy, but that sounded exactly like the type of quarterback that Georgia needed.
His skill set was going to be fun to watch with George Pickens, who sometimes just needs a quarterback who trusts him to go up and make a play even if there isn’t much separation. That’s not to say that Pickens won’t still get those opportunities, but Newman was a proven deep-ball passer.
Highest-graded passers on throws 20+ yards downfield last season:
1. Joe Burrow
2. Jamie Newman pic.twitter.com/4swkNTvdRc
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 2, 2020
I can say I was excited about Newman’s skill set while also acknowledging that I didn’t think he was worthy of starting 2020 as the No. 3 quarterback in the nation like Pro Football Focus. Newman still had too much work to do in the intermediate passing game and against elite defenses to make me think he was worthy of that. Those reasons are why I think he’ll be an extremely polarizing draft prospect who has a wide variety of opinions.
But still, it felt like this was this great experiment that we’re just not gonna get to see play out.
2. Maybe Kirby Smart knew what he was doing after all?
Remember when Smart got blasted for recruiting JT Daniels? It was seen as a move that didn’t make sense because of how highly regarded Newman was. It was another sign to the anti-Smart crowd that his over-recruiting of the quarterback position was going to again result in transfers.
Well, maybe Smart knew what he was doing. I wrote after Daniels transferred that it actually made sense from a depth standpoint. Behind Newman, Georgia had a redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis coming off a year in which he had emergency brain surgery, true freshman Carson Beck and Stetson Bennett IV, who initially walked on to the program.
Given the turnover on the offensive line and the running duties expected of Georgia’s quarterback in a new offense, it made sense that Smart was potentially concerned about depth. It makes even more sense that he was concerned about depth in May, when there were unknowns about what rosters would look like in this weird season. The fact that Daniels got immediate eligibility a month later was a boost for a Georgia team that didn’t want to waste potentially its best defense ever just because it didn’t add enough depth at quarterback.
No, I don’t think Smart foresaw Newman opting out. In hindsight, though, was it a smart move to add Daniels and load that quarterback room? Absolutely.
3. So is it Daniels’ job to lose? Or are we overlooking someone?
The assumption upon hearing Newman’s news was that Daniels went from battling for the quarterback job to now owning it. I’ll admit, I was guilty of that, as well.
But there are a couple of things worth remembering before we get carried away on the Daniels hype train. Yes, he’s a former 5-star guy who would still be starting at USC if he didn’t tear his ACL in his sophomore season. Speaking of that, he’s still not cleared for contact. That is, in my opinion, significant.
At a time when reps in this new offense are incredibly important, I wouldn’t assume that Daniels is the default winner of the job because he has the starting experience. It’s Mathis who has been getting a lot of buzz in camp. Georgia defenders are plenty high on what Mathis can do:
Dwan Mathis 🔥
— Malik Herring (@HerringMalik) July 14, 2020
Mathis, who they call “Deuce,” is 6-6 with a cannon. There are people who cover the team who believe Mathis wins the starting job, not Daniels:
I’ve got my money on D’wan 🤷🏻♂️
— Jake Reuse (@ReuseRecruiting) September 2, 2020
Remember that this is all about system fit. Monken is going to start someone based on who can do that. Daniels, even when he’s been healthy, hasn’t shown yet that he can stretch the field.
Is that my way of saying my money is on Mathis to win the gig? Not necessarily. But monitor camp closely because this is by no means a done deal now.
4. Hello, Zamir White
While I don’t think Georgia is about to reinvent its offense as a result of Newman opting out, I do think Monken is going to want to rely even more on White. Yes, he’s had multiple major knee surgeries and it’s been a few years since he’s had a major workload. But in a 10-game season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see White take on an increased role.
I’ve been saying throughout this offseason that I think White can be for Georgia what Nick Chubb was in Monken’s offense in Cleveland last year. By the way, Chubb had a whopping 334 scrimmage touches in 2019. I suppose that makes James Cook the Kareem Hunt of Monken’s offense. I admittedly always forget that Cook averaged 6 yards per carry in limited work last year.
Still, I think a loss of depth at the quarterback position suggests that a true every-down back like White is in for a bump in production in 2020.
5. Florida fans are salivating … for now
I actually think its Alabama and not Florida that could benefit the most from that potential shift in starting quarterback based on when those games are being played in the season. Florida fans might have rejoiced on social media upon hearing Wednesday’s news, and understandably so. They know that the path to Atlanta goes through Georgia (that sounded better in my head).
At the same time, Georgia is probably in better position than most to handle a learning curve on the offensive side of the ball for a lesser-experienced quarterback. The Dawgs have loads of production back from the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation. Can they do the heavy lifting early on while Georgia’s offense finds its identity? I think that’s fair.
But by the time the Cocktail Party (or whatever the politically correct term is for the SEC East Championship) rolls around, I’d expect Georgia’s starter to have plenty of comfortability in that offense.
Interesting times await in Athens.