After a solid day's worth of rumors and smoke, it's confirmed: USC transfer quarterback and former 5-star recruit JT Daniels will be taking his talents to Athens, Georgia.
He’s yet another top passer to join Kirby Smart's program in the SEC.
Daniels is coming off of a redshirt year following an ACL tear in the 2019 season opener and will likely sit out the 2020 season, as the NCAA pushed its vote on a transfer eligibility waiver to 2021. The postponed vote had Daniels targeting teams with a starting job available for 2021, which pushed Georgia to the top of the list.
The Bulldogs lost Jake Fromm to the NFL and saw Justin Fields transfer to Ohio State. Georgia didn't have a quality option at the position beyond potential first-year starters and previously added one of the biggest QB transfers from this offseason in Wake Forest graduate Jamie Newman, who had an angle on the NFL but elected instead to return to school and play in another system with better surrounding talent to improve his portfolio.
Newman figures to be the starter for 2020 before he enters the NFL, leaving a wide-open competition for Daniels to win in 2021. Even with two years off of football — one for injury and one due to the transfer — Daniels will be the only passer in the projected room that has significant in-game snaps under his belt. While Daniels' freshman year in 2018 was overshadowed by his replacement Kedon Slovis' freshman campaign in 2019, it was still a good showing. Daniels' talent is also reflected in his high school rating. He entered college as the third-ranked quarterback in a wicked 2018 class behind only Trevor Lawrence and, you guessed it, ex-Bulldog Fields.
Consider the last four quarterbacks to take significant snaps for Georgia, if we step a couple of years into the future: Jacob Eason, a fourth-round pick of the Colts; Jake Fromm, a fifth-round pick of the Bills; Newman, a likely draft selection and Daniels, another possible draft pick. What is stunning here is not only the degree of sustained recruiting success, should Daniels pan out as the starter and enter the league, it's the fact that Fields is not on this list.
Fields never threw more than eight passes in a game for the Bulldogs with 39 total pass attempts and 42 rushes comprising his entire Georgia career. Yet at Ohio State, Fields grabbed for a Heisman Trophy nomination for his 2019 efforts, made the playoffs, nearly toppled Clemson on a bad ankle for a championship berth and enters 2020 as a projected top-two quarterback in the class. If Fields stays healthy and doesn't completely crash back down to earth, he'll be a higher drafted passer than either Georgia quarterback before him to this point and likely above the oncoming passers as well.
Of course, when teams can recruit both prospects and transfers the way Kirby, they can mitigate the blow of failing to start Fields, but it remains a big hit nonetheless, especially in the competitive SEC where Georgia has only won one conference title in Kirby's first four years.
Daniels’ transfer is good news both for his future draft stock and Georgia football in the long-term; it’s also a testament to the recruiting powerhouse that Smart is building in Athens. But it again underlines the failure to prioritize the talent once it was within the building as no amount of 5-star transfers can assuage the pain of watching Fields dominate at Ohio State for another season and potentially enter the league as a better passer than anyone who took his place.