Thursday, January 20

Not. 5 to No. 1? JT Daniels and Kirby Smart pairing could meet Georgia’s higher expectations

JT Daniels offered his thought process when it came time to make the decision to transfer from USC in 2020.

There was no reason to reject Georgia.

“It’s really tough to beat Georgia,” Daniels told SEC Media Days on Tuesday. “It’s a top-five team, a good school, and a great staff. I couldn’t find a reason not to come here.”

The evaluation of the junior quarterback program is spot on. Coach Kirby Smart has maintained a top-five program through elite recruiting and field production since taking office in 2016.

MORE: New Key Coordinators for LSU’s Comeback Season

At any other conference, that would be more than enough. Georgia, however, technically took a half step back in the SEC in 2020. Florida won the SEC East for the first time with Dan Mullen. Alabama won another national championship.

Georgia is still the blue blood on the national title clock, one that has been running since 1980.

Daniels, whether he knows it or not, is the linchpin in moving Georgia from No. 5, where the Bulldogs are in the SN preseason Top 25, to that long-awaited position at No. 1. Daniels has a philosophical vision. from that preseason. forecasts that are not expected.

“It’s cool when they say you’re good,” Daniels said. “It’s great when they say you suck.”

Daniels could have just said that it’s great to be in the top five every year. Georgia is 52-14 since Smart took over, the fifth-best record among Power 5 schools in that stretch behind Alabama (65-5), Clemson (65-6), Ohio State (56-7) and Oklahoma ( 56-10).

Of those five schools, Georgia has the second-best average recruiting class ranking. according to in the last five cycles, also. Alabama, of course, is number one.

Recruitment ranking since 2017

YEAR 2017. 2018 2019 2020 2021 AVG
Alabama 1 5 1 two 1 two
Georgia 3 1 two 1 4 2.2
State of ohio two two 14 5 two 5
Clemson sixteen 7 10 3 5 8.2
Oklahoma 8 9 6 12 10 9

Smart has made Georgia a cool place to be, and not just because he named rapper Quavo, a native of Athens, Georgia, as someone to text when it comes to Name, Picture, and Likeness. Georgia should remain a destination for the top five hiring classes.

“You think of people like Hines Ward or Champ Bailey at the University of Georgia. AJ Green and Todd Gurley,” Smart said. “What they could have done with NIL. These young men and women have earned this opportunity. We are excited for them.”

All of those Georgia stars also experienced the pressure of the national championship drought. Smart’s five-year streak is being compared to former Georgia coach Mark Richt, who was half a game better at 52-13 after his first five seasons in Athens. Richt spent 15 seasons in Athens, but with every swing and mistake in the national championship, that pressure increased.

Will Smart bring home a national championship in the next decade? He’s in the top three bets to win the first one along with Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Ohio State’s Ryan Day, but there are challenges. Smart is 5-1 against Auburn and 4-1 against Tennessee, but is 3-2 against Florida and 0-3 against Alabama. Also, this year the Bulldogs open against Clemson in the biggest September matchup of the season.

It’s a long way from No. 5 to No. 1, and Daniels is the key to making that ground back. Daniels did not play in losses to Alabama and Florida last season. He won all four starts at quarterback, one he took over, and another offseason with offensive coordinator Todd Monken should help.

Smart sees a player in the line of the last two quarterbacks of the national championship: LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Mac Jones.

“The two guys who were national champs the last two years; they were really good quarterbacks. They were excellent decision makers. They were actually better athletes than people think. The decision-making process, TD-interception -ratio, protect the ball, use the playmakers around him. JT has those skills. “

Perhaps there is no more important player as Smart embarks on the sixth year in Athens. Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm and Daniels have been solid quarterbacks, but Georgia’s transfer Justin Fields totaled 63 TDS and nine interceptions in back-to-back CFP appearances for Ohio State the past two seasons.

Daniels has that elite arm talent that goes well with an offense that has the same loaded, stable running back with a tough offensive line. Smart also worked on the transfer portal with LSU tight end Arik Gilbert, West Virginia safety Tykee Smith and Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick.

Georgia is loaded. Georgia is one of the top five programs. Smart may name Quavo, but he has far-reaching insight when looking at the big picture when it comes to dealing with those expectations of national championship or failure.

“Success comes to those who are too busy to seek it,” Smart said. “That’s Henry David Thoreau. For me, that’s it. I’m too busy working. I’m too busy trying to do the next thing. I’m too busy trying to take the next step to give our team a competitive advantage to really care about the issues. expectations “.

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