Justin Fields

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Smart: Georgia’s starting QB likely a game-time decision

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ATLANTA — Georgia still hasn’t decided on a new starting quarterback, and coach Kirby Smart said Tuesday he Will Likely wait until the season opener to reveal who earned the job.

JT Daniels, a transfer from Southern Cal who was granted permission by the NCAA to play right away, is the most notable contender to take over for three-year starter Jake Fromm.

But Daniels has yet to be fully cleared from a season-ending knee injury sustained in 2019. Redshirt freshman D'Wan Mathis put on an impressive showing with the first team during a scrimmage last weekend at Sanford Stadium, leading to speculation that he’s got the upper hand for the starting spot.

“As far as I can tell, it’s probably going to be a game-time decision,” Smart said.

The No. 4 Bulldogs open the season Sept. 26 at Arkansas.

Smart is used to this sort of quandary. In his first season at Georgia in 2016, senior Grayson Lambert started the opener but freshman Jacob Eason came in early, got the start the following week and held the job the rest of the season.

In 2017, Eason started the opener but was injured, clearing the way for Fromm to take over the job. He led the Bulldogs to the national championship game, prompting Eason to transfer to Washington.

That didn’t end the quarterback debate. Georgia landed another highly rated recruit, Justin Fields, who got some playing time in 2018 but never beat out Fromm. Fields moved on to Ohio State, where he put up much better numbers than Fromm while leading the Buckeyes to the 2019 College Football Playoff.

Now, the Bulldogs have another QB battle on their hands – one that took an unexpected twist two weeks ago when transfer Jamie Newman, who started last year at Wake Forest, opted out of the season because of COVID-19.

“It’s not a problem for me,” Smart said. “It’s getting to be the norm around here. We’ve had it before. It’s not a concern among the staff or the organization or the kids. We talk a lot with the kids about it to make sure they understand where we are.”

Mathis went through a scary ordeal after enrolling at Georgia, requiring brain surgery to remove a cyst. He returned to the scout team late last season and is fully recovered.

“I remember going to see him in the hospital. All his family members were there. It was a scary, scary moment,” Smart said. “But he pushed through that.”

Daniels tore up a knee in the opener of his sophomore season with the Trojans, and Smart revealed that he also needed follow-up surgery late in the year to clean up some additional issues. He is able to practice but can’t have any contact.

“JT is not completely cleared yet,” Smart said. “If we didn’t think he would be cleared (for the opener), we wouldn’t be practicing him.”

Daniels is by far the most experienced of the four quarterbacks on the roster. He was only the second quarterback in Southern Cal history to start the opener as a true freshman and went on to pass for 2,672 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2018.

Mathis has never played in a college game. Neither has freshman Carson Beck.

Junior Stetson Bennett played a handful of snaps last season in a mop-up role behind Fromm, but it looks like the starting job is down to a two-man race between Mathis and Daniels.

Parsons, Sewell among AP preseason All-Americans not playing

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell are among 11 players selected to The Associated Press preseason All-America first team who are not slated to play this fall.

The team was selected by 47 AP poll voters, who were asked to consider all Division I players – even those who had already opted out of the season or whose teams had postponed football.

The results show just how much star power will be missing from this pandemic-altered college football season. Twelve second-team All-Americans will also not play in the fall, including quarterback Justin Fields from defending Big Ten champion and preseason No. 2 Ohio State.

The Big Ten, Pac-12, Mid-American and Mountain West conferences have decided to try to play football in the second semester. As of now, Fields has given no indication that he won’t be with the Buckeyes if they do. Same goes for Sewell, the Outland Trophy winner and potential top-five NFL draft pick, and Oregon teammate Kayvon Thibodeaux, a sophomore defensive end.

Parsons is among a handful of stars who have said they are gone for good, opting out of the season to concentrate on preparing for the draft. Along with Parsons, Purdue’s Rondale Moore, selected as an all-purpose player, Miami defensive end Gregory Rousseau and Pittsburgh defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman were first-team All-America opt outs.

The All-Americans who will play this season include Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard and LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase.

FIRST TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – Trevor Lawrence, junior, Clemson.

Running backs – Chuba Hubbard, junior, Oklahoma State; Travis Etienne, senior, Clemson.

Tackles – x-Penei Sewell, junior, Oregon; Alex Leatherwood, senior, Alabama.

Guards – x-Wyatt Davis, junior, Ohio State; Trey Smith, senior, Tennessee.

Center – Creed Humphrey, junior, Oklahoma.

Tight end – x-Pat Freiermuth, junior, Penn State.

Receivers – Ja’Marr Chase, junior, LSU; DeVonta Smith, senior, Alabama.

All-purpose player – y-Rondale Moore, junior, Purdue.

Kicker – x-Keith Duncan, senior, Iowa.

DEFENSE

Ends – x-Kayvon Thibodeaux, sophomore, Oregon; y-Gregory Rousseau, junior, Miami.

Tackles – Marvin Wilson, senior, Florida State; y-Jaylen Twyman, junior, Pitt.

Linebackers – y-Micah Parsons, junior, Penn State; x-Hamilcar Rashed Jr., senior, Oregon State; Dylan Moses, senior, Alabama.

Cornerbacks – Derek Stingley Jr., sophomore, LSU; x-Shaun Wade, junior, Ohio State.

Safeties – Richard LeCounte, senior, Georgia; Andre Cisco, junior, Syracuse.

Punter – Max Duffy, senior, Kentucky.

SECOND TEAM

Offense

Quarterback – x-Justin Fields, junior, Ohio State.

Running backs – Najee Harris, senior, Alabama; Kenneth Gainwell, sophomore, Memphis.

Tackles – Samuel Cosmi, junior, Texas; x-Cole Van Lanen, senior, Wisconsin.

Guards – x-Nolan Laufenberg, senior, Air Force; x-Alijah Vera-Tucker, junior, Southern California.

Center – x-Tyler Linderbaum, junior, Iowa.

Tight end – Charlie Kolar, junior, Iowa State.

Receivers – Tylan Wallace, senior, Oklahoma State; y-Rashod Bateman, junior, Minnesota.

All-purpose player – Jaylen Waddle, junior, Alabama.

Kicker – Gabe Brkic, sophomore, Oklahoma.

Defense

Ends – Carlos Basham, senior, Wake Forest; Quincy Roche, senior, Miami.

Tackles – y-Jay Tufele, junior, Southern California; x-Levi Onwuzurike, senior, Washington.

Linebackers – Chazz Surratt senior, North Carolina; Nick Bolton, junior, Missouri; x-Paddy Fisher, senior, Northwestern.

Cornerbacks – Patrick Surtain II, junior, Alabama; y-Caleb Farley, junior, Virginia Tech.

Safeties – x-Jevon Holland, junior, Oregon; Trevon Moehrig, junior, TCU.

Punter – x-Adam Korsak, junior, Rutgers.

(x-team not scheduled to play in the fall; y-opted out of season)

Big Ten’s Warren, under fire, elaborates on virus concerns

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
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Facing backlash from fans, players’ parents and others, Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren sought to elaborate on the decision last week to postpone football season until spring.

The first-year commissioner has been criticized for a lack of transparency in how the decision to call off football this fall was made.

“We thoroughly understand and deeply value what sports mean to our student-athletes, their families, our coaches and our fans,” Warren wrote Wednesday in what was called an “Open Letter to the Big Ten Community.”

“The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited. The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”

The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced Aug. 11 there would be no football in their conferences. That was four days after the Big Ten released a revised 10-game schedule for each team.

The Pac-12 rolled out its decision with comment from its medical experts. Warren did not make the Big Ten medical advisers available and spoke in generalities about the reasons.

Players and coaches expressed disappointment in how the announcement was made, and the parents of players from several schools wrote letters to Warren demanding further explanation in t he wake of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference proceeding with plans to play this fall.

In his letter Wednesday, Warren listed primary factors that led to the decision:

– Transmission rates continue to rise at an alarming rate with little indication from medical experts that campuses, communities and the country could gain control of the spread of the virus prior to the start of competition.

“As our teams were ramping up for more intense practices, many of our medical staffs did not think the interventions we had planned would be adequate to decrease the potential spread even with very regular testing,” he wrote. “As the general student body comes back to campus, spread to student-athletes could reintroduce infection into our athletics community.”

– There is too much unknown about the virus, recovery from infection, and longer-term effects. In particular, Warren mentioned the risk of cardiomyopathy, a condition that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood and can lead to heart failure. “The uncertain risk was unacceptable at this time,” he wrote.

– Concerns about contact tracing, including the inability to social distance in contact sports pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. He wrote that risk mitigation processes such as physical distancing, face coverings and proper hygiene could not be fully implemented in contact sports.

“We understand the disappointment and questions surrounding the timing of our decision to postpone fall sports, especially in light of releasing a football schedule only six days prior to that decision,” Warren wrote. “From the beginning, we consistently communicated our commitment to cautiously proceed one day at a time with the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center of our decision-making process.

“That is why we took simultaneous paths in releasing the football schedule, while also diligently monitoring the spread of the virus, testing, and medical concerns as student-athletes were transitioning to full-contact practice.”

Warren said the start of full-contact practices and games would make contact tracing more difficult and that there could be frequent and significant disruptions to the season.

“Accurate and widely available rapid testing may help mitigate those concerns, but access to accurate tests is currently limited,” he wrote.

Warren noted that the decision to postpone the season would have negative financial implications on the schools.

“We understand the passion of the many student-athletes and their families who were disappointed by the decision,” Warren wrote, “but also know there are many who have a great deal of concern and anxiety regarding the pandemic.”