Georgia football: Regardless of your feelings about Stetson Bennett IV, Dawgs are much more than who’s behind center
There’s a strong chance that JT Daniels might not be available to play against Auburn on Saturday.
Of course, Daniels missed out on last year’s edition of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry at Sanford Stadium, too. Stetson Bennett IV started and Georgia won 27-6 — and it really wasn’t that close, either.
And it looks as if Bennett might get the call again down at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Daniels’ lat injury will be a big focus leading up to the contest as he’s been declared “week-to-week.” How many “weeks” the injury designation ends up measuring out to in the end remains to be seen, but you wonder if Kirby Smart — and this is only speculation — doesn’t stick with Bennett these next 2 games to give Daniels time to rest and be full-go against Florida on Oct. 30 and through the 4 regular-season games after that. (The way it looks now seems to suggest that the Dawgs just might have the SEC East all but sewn up by the open week.)
Of course, Smart could simply let Bryan Harsin wait it out until Saturday afternoon and spring a fully-healthy Daniels on the Tigers with little to no notice.
“We think we’ll be able to get him back. But we don’t know when,” Smart said. “(But) I know this: The men in the locker room have confidence in whoever we put out there.”
I’ll be honest that I haven’t been the biggest Bennett fan. And Smart certainly has had his missteps in quarterback selection in the past.
That said, Bennett understands the criticism that’s been thrown his way this season, and really, during last season before Daniels took over. But he’s done just about everything he’s been asked to do thus far in 2021, and sometimes beyond that, specifically during his 5-touchdown performance against UAB a few weeks ago. Granted, it’s UAB — not a terrible team, mind you — but 5 touchdowns in a half is tough to do against any team, much less in a game.
Rest assured, Daniels is the unquestioned starter and the best quarterback on the roster. There’s still the decision-making issues for Bennett, such as when ESPN cameras caught Smart admonishing him to run the ball when he’s given the time and space to do so rather than throwing it away. But give him the weapons he needs to be successful and he’ll make the best of his opportunities.
He’ll certainly be throwing the ball more than 11 times against Auburn this week.
“Stetson Bennett is a really good quarterback,” Smart said. “I keep saying that, and people don’t believe us. But he’s a really good quarterback.”
Regardless of who’s behind center, the Dawgs have shown that they can win anyway. There are countless teams that live and die by their QB play to the point that if he’s injured, they can essentially consider their season over.
Georgia isn’t one of those teams. Some days it needs its QB to tear up secondaries, and other days it can bully a team like Arkansas into submission. And just about every day, its defense — just 1 touchdown given up in 20 quarters — is flat out impossible to score on, much less move the ball against.
We won’t know whether it’s Daniels or Bennett getting the call for Georgia against Auburn until a few hours before kickoff. Either way, the Dawgs will be favored, even with an inspired Bo Nix leading a comeback win over LSU a week after he was benched in the final moments of Auburn’s late victory against Georgia State, and with a Tigers team hungry to throw a wrench in the College Football Playoff aspirations of a team that’s beaten them 4 times in a row.
Although, regardless of whether it’s Bennett or Daniels taking the snaps on Saturday, the way the entire team’s been playing through the first 5 games, does it really matter?