ATHENS, Georgia — Georgia, reclaiming its claim as the No. 1 team in the country with a 37-0 knockdown of No. 8 Arkansas, could be juggling quarterbacks for a while yet.
Stetson Bennett made his second start of the season on Saturday after JT Daniels missed the game with a sprain to his latissimus dorsi (lat), the muscle that connects the arms to the spine. Coach Kirby Smart said afterwards that it would remain a weekly decision about Daniels’ availability.
“It’s a grade 1 sprain and we think we can get it back, but we don’t know when,” Smart said. “I know this: The guys in that locker room have faith in whoever we put in there. I know you guys don’t believe me and say, ‘Yeah, that’s just coaching language,’ but I have faith in our quarterbacks… It’s too bad JT can’t go. It’s not like we did anything to make him worse. At least he’s had a lot of free time.”
Smart noted that Daniels was also dealing with an oblique injury that came into the season, which Smart said worsened in the season-opening win over Clemson.
“They are two separate injuries and painful. We hope to get” [Daniels] back,” Smart said. “It doesn’t bother me because it’s out of our control. Stetson Bennett is a very good quarterback. I keep saying that and people don’t believe us, but he’s a good quarterback.”
Bennett tried just 11 passes on Saturday and completed seven for 72 yards as Georgia leaned on his running game (273 yards) and a defense that knocked out a second straight SEC opponent for the first time since the 1980 season, giving the Dawgs. last national championship.
Smart said he’s reached out to New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys trainers, and that while Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a similar injury, Daniels’ injury isn’t considered as extreme.
“There’s nothing we can do but let it heal,” said Smart, whose team plays in Auburn next week. When asked if Daniels was close to playing on Saturday, Smart got picky.
“Why is this the conversation, was it close?” he said. “He couldn’t play. He couldn’t go out and effectively lead the team and play. … The story should be about the fans and these players who put it on the line and played out their butts. … JT will be fine.”
Smart admitted Daniels was frustrated at not being healthy enough to play, but Smart said the perception [QB] is much better than the others” is not true. When asked if the ceiling for Georgia was higher with Daniels as quarterback, Smart said that was an unfair question.
“That’s hypothetical. … Stetson just goes out and does its job,” Smart said.
Georgia (5-0) has now beaten the top five opponents by a combined 208-23 margin and allowed only two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter after the outcome was determined. Smart said his message to his team will remain the same: There is no room for complacency.
“We keep preaching to get better and grow,” said Smart. “We are not where we need to be, but as long as they keep buying in… we have a very good atmosphere in our squad of complementary football with attacking, defensive and special teams.”