Kirby Smart remains diplomatic about Georgia QB situation
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has followed the same script he’s used for most of the season, refusing on Monday to name the starting quarterback for the top-ranked Bulldogs’ next game, Saturday against Missouri in Athens, Ga.
Stetson Bennett has started the past five games in place of JT Daniels, who has been out with a strained oblique. Smart said Daniels made progress in practice last week, but he started Bennett in the win against Florida on Saturday to maintain continuity.
Bennett went 10-of-19 passing for 161 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, in Georgia’s 34-7 victory.
His performance atoned for last year’s effort in a 44-28 loss to the Gators, when he threw for just 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 5-for-16 passing.
After initially injuring his shoulder in the first quarter of that game, he was pulled in the third quarter in favor of D’Wan Mathis, who no longer is on the team.
Smart has said all season he uses what happens during practice to determine who starts under center for the Bulldogs (8-0, 6-0 SEC).
Bennett and Daniels bring different attributes, with Bennett’s ability to run the ball giving the Bulldogs a dimension they lack with Daniels. Conversely, Daniels has a better pocket presence of a pro-style quarterback and has proved he can throw the ball more accurately downfield.
Bennett’s two interceptions against Florida on Saturday came when he attempted deep passes to receivers who were double-covered.
“(Bennett’s ability to run is) a separator, but, I mean, there’s things that JT is better at than Stetson, but it’s one of the things that’s a factor,” Smart said. “Mobility in a quarterback is critical. It’s not that JT’s immobile … it’s just that Stetson is very mobile. Stetson is able to make some plays with his feet. I thought there were five or six plays in the game where his mobility was a factor.”
Bennett has gone 67-for-101 passing (66.3 percent) for 1,157 yards and 12 touchdowns, with four interceptions, this season. Daniels is a more efficient passer, completing 76.1 percent of his throws (54-for-71) for 567 yards and five touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Smart praised Bennett for his ability to turn plays that initially appeared to be well-defended by Florida into positive gains. Bennett rushed for 35 yards on six carries against the Gators, raising his season total to 183 yards on 25 carries, an average of 7.3 yards per attempt.
“We had breakdowns, and you’re going to have some, on offense,” Smart said. “And when you have those, you gotta have somebody who can get you out of a bad play, and I don’t mean by way of check. I mean during the play, and he does a good job of doing that.”
Though Smart didn’t address playing both quarterbacks against Missouri (4-4, 1-3), it could be an opportune time.
Georgia opened as a 38.5-point favorite against the Tigers, who have given up an average of 40 points per game in their four league games this season.
Smart said he expects the Bulldogs to gain yards in bunches, regardless of who is at quarterback.
“Explosive plays are the number one trait to scoring points, in my opinion,” he said. “That’s probably the number one characteristic of teams that win games is how explosive you are, especially in today’s day and age. So being able to be explosive is really important, and we work really hard on it.”
–Field Level Media