|Left Outside||Left Middle||Right Middle||Right Outside||Total|
|20+||2/5||2/4 (TD)||4/9 (TD)|
|1-5||1/2||2/2 (2 TD)||2/2||5/6 (2 TD)|
|Total||4/7||2/5||3/3||8/12||17/27 (3 TD)|
Outside the Pocket: 2/2
Under Pressure: 3/8 (TD)
Red Zone: 0/1
3rd/4th Down: 5/6 (2 TD)
Forced Adjustments: 2
Explosive Plays (25+ yards and/or touchdown): 5
Georgia’s quarterback situation early in the season was a mess. Heading into the season, Wake Forest transfer and potential top-100 draft pick Jamie Newman was supposed to battle it out with USC transfer JT Daniels for the starting position. Newman decided to opt out, however, leaving Daniels as the presumptive starter. Then it became clear that Daniels, coming off a knee injury he suffered during the 2019 season, would not be ready to go when the 2020 season started.
Freshman D’Wan Mathis, who has since transferred to Temple, started early on, but was mostly a disaster. Head coach Kirby Smart moved on from that experiment quickly, leaning on redshirt junior Stetson Bennett. Bennett basically entered the year fourth on the depth chart. While he was not horrid, Bennett provided nothing of value and was certainly not going to be the one to take the offense to new heights. The Bulldogs needed Daniels back badly.
Daniels finally returned about a month ago. Since then, he has started three games for Georgia, completing 54-of-81 passes for 839 yards, nine touchdowns, and a pick in three wins. The former five-star recruit has been everything he was supposed to be for the Bulldogs. Last week’s match against Missouri was just the latest proof of that.
Though 17-of-27 as a raw accuracy rate is not too sexy, that is a little skewed by how often Daniels lets it rip down the field. One-third of his attempts cleared 20 yards in the air, while another four passes traveled between 11-20 yards. Only about 48% of Daniels’ passes were thrown 10 yards or shorter. For reference, among the 3,900+ passes I charted for ten quarterbacks in the 2020 draft class, the average percentage of passes thrown at 10-yards or shorter was about 61%. Daniels’ day against Missouri was clearly more aggressive than that.
Funny enough, Daniels’ best deep ball of the day had little to do with the throw itself. Do not get me wrong, Daniels still placed a good ball (as you’re about to see), but it’s everything else leading up to the throw itself that makes the play special. Daniels is a sharp, tough young signal caller.
Just after Daniels claps his hands for the snap, a Missouri defender tries to jump the snap and tee off on the QB. The defender jumps a hair early, though, and ends up being offside. Daniels now knows that this is a free play and there will be zero repercussions for anything he does. The Georgia QB eyes the field side through his drop, trying to find a more surefire avenue for yardage. Once he sees nothing open, Daniels turns to rip it deep down the sideline with zero hesitation, knowing an incompletion does not matter.
Daniels delivers the throw with a defender right in his face. He even does a fantastic job to lean slightly back and away from the defender while making this throw rather than driving into it like he wants to, which allows the ball to just barely get by the defender’s arm. That Daniels had the instant awareness to know not to lean into this throw is one thing, but that he also had enough arm strength to rip it about 50 yards from that kind of platform is outrageous. Awareness, poise, and arm talent is a pretty good place to start for any offense.
What dazzles about the Georgia offense is how well they set up Daniels to succeed, too, both through simple scheme and sheer talent. The rest of the drive leading up to that free-play touchdown was a good example of Georgia keeping things simple when necessary and just letting Daniels and Co. roll.
As evidenced by the clock in the last clip, Georgia were trying to run their two-minute offense just before the half. Leading up to the free-play heave, Daniels was presented with three consecutive routes to the right sideline between about 11-15 yards. The first was an out-route ran from an offset stack on a sprintout concept, while the other two were just comeback routes from the outside receiver.
What’s important about the sprintout versus the ensuing pair of comeback routes is where the QB gets to throw the ball from. With the sprintout into the right side, Daniels’ dominant-hand side, gets to throw a ball on the right sideline from about the right hash. That’s about as easy as it’s going to get for a quarterback throwing past the sticks aside from a straight up go route. Since the ball gets to be snapped from the right hash on the following two plays, the sprintout is not necessary. Daniels gets to just rip the ball off a short hop at the top of his drop and call it a day. Credit to him for leaving the ball on the outside half of the receive with some heat on it, too. That’s exactly where that ball needs to be thrown.
Daniels’ ball placement is generally pretty sharp. He flashed it on those handful of throws, but he also shows impressive control and the ability to lead his receivers towards yards-after-catch opportunities underneath. Daniels’ “aversion” — if you want to call it that — to throwing to shorter areas of the field certainly is not a matter of him being inaccurate on those throws.
Nothing about Daniels’ poise or processing or anything else is that impressive here. It’s Daniels’ YAC-centric accuracy that takes this play to the next level. In theory, Daniels could just leave this out a bit in front of the running back to make for an easy completion. Instead, Daniels captures the full essence of the angle route and leads this ball slightly up the field, coaxing the running back to stop running across the field and stem upwards a bit. The running back is able to snatch this pass over his far shoulder and continue straight up the field, eventually finding the end zone.
It may not seem like much, but that slight bit of help to get going up the field is often the difference on explosive plays such as this one. It's small details like that which help separate good offenses from great ones.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, it's a little late for Daniels' form to matter. Georgia have already missed the SEC championship and a playoff spot is out of the question. No amount of Daniels performing at a high level is going to change anything at this point.
However, it seems abundantly clear that Georgia have found themselves a smart, accurate QB who is willing to press the ball down the field in offensive coordinator Todd Monken's aggressive offense. So long as the program does not lose too much talent this offseason via transfers or NFL draft declaration, Daniels and the Bulldogs should be one of the best offenses in the conference, next to Alabama and potentially Florida. Look for Georgia to compete for titles again next year, thanks in large part to Daniels unlocking the pass game.