ATHENS, Georgia — Quarterback JT Daniels was banned from practicing for No. 2 Georgia on Monday, leaving the junior’s standings uncertain for Saturday’s SEC 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 during pre-game warm-ups.
Stetson Bennett filled in for Daniels and passed only 72 yards while Georgia ran 273 yards against an Arkansas defense aligned with additional defensive backs.
Even if it can lean on the best defense in the country, Georgia may need better offensive balance at Auburn. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said on Monday that he remains hopeful Daniels can play against the Tigers.
Smart said Daniels “did everything but throw” in the first practice of the week.
“The most important thing is that he needs to rest, recover and try to heal,” said Daniels’ Smart. “We are hopeful that he can go on Tuesday, Wednesday and throw like he did last week.”
Daniels has missed two games. An oblique injury prevented the junior from playing in a 56-7 win over UAB on September 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 experienced quarterbacks.
“I think the great thing that our quarterbacks do is they definitely add a calming effect to the game,” Van Pran said Monday. “They stay calm, they lead the right way and in a positive way.”
Smart said he has confidence in all of his quarterbacks, including freshman Carson Beck, who appeared to be the pick if a backup for Bennett was needed last week. Still, Daniels is 7-0 as the starter.
Georgia must now make decisions to protect Daniels’ health ahead of SEC hopes and the team’s national championship.
“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Smart said. “It’s really No. 1, pain tolerance. No. 2, he can let it heal so it’s not a nagging, recurring long-term injury. It’s a shame because it’s a serious injury.”
Georgia’s attack gained momentum last season after Daniels, a transfer from Southern California, completed his recovery from knee surgery. The Bulldogs have won their last four games with Daniels as the starter.
This season, Daniels completed 76.1% of his passes (54 of 71) for 569 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions.
Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) wins with defense. It allowed only 4.6 points per game and has booked consecutive shutouts in SEC games for the first time since the 1980 national championship season. Including a 62-0 win over Vanderbilt, the Bulldogs have outperformed their previous two opponents 99-0.
Auburn (4-1, 1-0) has an average of 40 points per game and gained momentum with last week’s 24-19 win over LSU.
Auburn coach Bryan Harsin follows Georgia’s precarious quarterback situation.
“I don’t know anything about their quarterback situation,” Harsin said Monday. “JT Daniels is very good. Stetson Bennett was very impressed with him.”
Harsin said Georgia “has a good balance, they have a good staff, and they have two really good quarterbacks, and they’re capable of handing guys the ball.”