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QB JT Daniels not throwing, status uncertain for No. 2 Georgia

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Georgia

Oct 2, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback JT Daniels (18) on the field prior to the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ATHENS, Ga.- Quarterback JT Daniels was held out of throwing drills for No. 2 Georgia on Monday, leaving the junior’s status uncertain for Saturday’s Southeastern Conference game at No. 18 Auburn.

The Bulldogs leaned on their running game and defense to overwhelm No. 8 Arkansas 37-0 last week. Daniels was in uniform but did not play after testing his right lat injury in pregame warmups.

Stetson Bennett filled in for Daniels and passed for only 72 yards as Georgia ran for 273 yards against an Arkansas defense that was aligned with extra defensive backs.

Even when it can lean on the nation’s top defense, Georgia might need better offensive balance at Auburn. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday he remains hopeful Daniels can play against the Tigers.

Smart said Daniels was “doing everything but throwing” in the first practice of the week.

“The biggest thing is that he has to rest, recover, and try to heal,” said Smart of Daniels. “We are very hopeful that he will be able to go Tuesday, Wednesday and be able to throw like last week.”

Daniels has missed two games. An oblique injury kept the junior from playing in a 56-7 win over UAB on Sept. 11.

Bennett, a senior, has completed 29 of 41 passes for 515 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions in four games, including two starts. He completed 10 of 12 passes and threw five touchdown passes in the first half against UAB, tying the school record.

Center Sedrick Van Pran said Georgia is fortunate to have two veteran quarterbacks.

“I think the great thing that our quarterbacks do is that they definitely add a calming effect into the game,” Van Pran said Monday. “They stay calm, they lead in the right way and in a positive manner.”

Smart said he has confidence in all his quarterbacks, including freshman Carson Beck, who appeared to be the choice if a backup for Bennett had been needed last week. Even so, Daniels is 7-0 as a starter.

Georgia must make decisions now to protect Daniels’ health for the team’s SEC and national championship hopes.

“I think it’s going to be a time thing,” Smart said. “It’s really number one, pain tolerance. Number two, can he get it to heal so it’s not a nagging, recurring long-term injury. It’s unfortunate because it’s a tough injury.”

Georgia’s offense gained momentum last season after Daniels, a transfer from Southern California, completed his recovery from knee surgery. The Bulldogs won their final four games with Daniels as the starter.

This season, Daniels has completed 76.1% of his passes (54 of 71) for 569 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.

Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) is winning with defense. It has allowed only 4.6 points per game and has posted consecutive shutouts in SEC games for the first time since its 1980 national championship season. Including a 62-0 win at Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs have outscored their last two opponents 99-0.

Auburn (4-1, 1-0) is averaging 40 points per game and gained momentum with last week’s 24-19 win at LSU.

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin is tracking Georgia’s uncertain quarterback situation.

“I don’t know about their quarterback situation,” Harsin said Monday. “JT Daniels is very good. Stetson Bennett, been very impressed with him.”

Harsin said Georgia has “good balance, they got good personnel, and they got two really good quarterbacks, and they’re able to get guys the ball.”.