Georgia offense set to continue improvement against Vanderbilt

Tony Walsh | UGA Sports CommunicationsGeorgia quarterback JT Daniels (18) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Georgia, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.

It’s no secret Georgia’s offense has seen an uptick through its last two games.

Sure, those last two games were against Mississippi State and South Carolina, two opponents the Bulldogs weren’t expected to lose to anyway, but the numbers don’t lie. Neither does the eye test, where Georgia’s offense has looked good.

This week, the Bulldogs face Vanderbilt, the conference’s second-worst team in total defense. The Commodores are also without head coach Derek Mason, who was fired on Sunday after his winless team fell 41-0 at Missouri.

The matchup is a recipe for more explosiveness in Georgia’s last home game of 2020. Explosive plays are quantified by offensive coordinator Todd Monken as a rush of at least 12 yards or a completion of at least 16. Georgia executed 12 against South Carolina — eight rushes and four passes — its highest total of the season.

It’s also a chance for another good look at quarterback JT Daniels, who will start his third game with the Bulldogs this week. Head coach Kirby Smart said in a virtual press conference Monday he’s continued to see good decision making from Daniels, who passed for more yards than any other quarterback in the Smart era (401) against Mississippi State two weeks ago.

“That is the most important thing, to continue to make good decisions,” Smart said. “If it’s not there, take off and run with it, throw it away, which he did the other day. … There are going to be times when you don’t have the perfect call, and hey, you have to punt, you have to throw it away. That’s what I want to see him do and continue to get better at.”

Daniels had a more quiet role against South Carolina, completing 10 of his 16 passes for 139 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was tough to pin on him. But even when he’s not passing over 400 yards, Daniels’ leadership of the offense is present.

“He’s just a professional,” said tight end Tre McKitty in a virtual press conference. “Off the field, regular joking guy with us. On the field, everybody’s locked in, taking things seriously. He kind of sets the tone for that, him being the quarterback of the offense, he has to take command and everyone has to follow his lead. I think he’s done a great job with that.”

Daniels averaged a Georgia season-high 10.55 yards per pass against Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs’ running backs averaged their season-high 7.95 yards per rush against South Carolina. Both game plans showcased another dimension of an offense that had plenty of concern around it earlier in the season.

With Vanderbilt allowing its opponents an average of 37 points and over 480 yards per game, this week will likely continue the Bulldogs’ upward trajectory on offense.

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization based in Athens, Ga.; redandblack.com/sports

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