JT Daniels uses spring to solidify firm hold of Dogs’ QB job

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ATHENS, Ga. — Kirby Smart doesn’t like to show his hand when it comes to Georgia’s quarterbacks.

If there is any question as to who will be his starter, the coach prolongs the mystery as long as possible.

This spring, there’s no mystery. After only four starts with the Bulldogs, JT Daniels‘ status as the starter – and the Bulldogs’ leader – is unquestioned.

Daniels is only more confident in his role following his first spring practice, which ended with him passing for 324 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in Saturday’s G-Day spring game.

One year ago, Daniels was still recovering from a serious knee injury following his transfer from Southern Cal. He wasn’t cleared to play until after the start of the 2020 season.

This spring provided Daniels the important opportunity for extended practice time. He described the value of the 15 spring practices as “massive” for his continued development.

“There’s been a lot of overall improvement for me personally and also with a lot of guys stepping up in the receiver room,” Daniels said. “There’s a lot better chemistry you notice in the spring game.”

The spring also has helped teammates adjust to Daniels.

“It’s been good having him all spring and feeling that connection with him,” said offensive tackle Warren McClendon. “Being in the huddle with him every day is good.”

Daniels capped his abbreviated four-game debut as starter last season by leading three fourth-quarter scoring drives and passing for 392 yards in the Bulldogs’ 24-21 Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati.

With Daniels returning for his junior season, Georgia looked to have most of its offense back for 2021. Instead, top receiver George Pickens likely will miss the season after suffering a right knee injury early in spring practice.

Pickens’ injury robs Daniels of his most established playmaker, but the quarterback says the Bulldogs are deep at receiver. Proof came Saturday.

Freshman Adonai Mitchell joined Daniels on the first-team offense and had seven catches for 105 yards, including a 24-yard scoring catch with four seconds remaining in the first half. Demetris Robertson caught a 59-yard scoring pass from Daniels, who also threw a touchdown pass to Kearis Jackson.

Smart said Daniels “has got command of the offense” despite playing less than half a season.

“He understands it,” Smart said. “The key is his decision-making process. The quarterback has to be in charge every single play and he manages that very well for us.”

The scrimmage, played before 20,524 fans, was only Daniels’ second appearance at Sanford Stadium. His home debut will be difficult to top.

Daniels raised expectations in his only 2020 home game by passing for four touchdowns in a 31-24 win over Mississippi State. Overall, he threw for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns in his four games, all wins.

Georgia finished 8-2 and No. 7 in the final AP Top 25 poll. The Bulldogs’ offense, known as a run-first attack, found passing balance with Daniels at quarterback.

There is an expectation the second season under offensive coordinator Todd Monken, and the first full season with Daniels, will only add more emphasis to the passing game.

“He has better understanding of his weapons and he’s got a boatload more reps with each one of those,” Smart said of Daniels.

Some of those weapons are at running back. Zamir White and James Cook combined for 12 catches out of the backfield.

“It’s very, very, very rare that the first guy tackles any of our running backs,” Daniels said. “We trust our running backs with the ball to make guys miss them.”

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:


The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.


The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.


The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.


The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.


After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.