South Carolina next test for Daniels, No. 13 Georgia

No. 13 Georgia faces a steep climb to make the College Football Playoff, but it may have found an upper-echelon quarterback as it heads into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference game against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.

In his Georgia debut, highly touted JT Daniels passed for 401 yards and four touchdowns in last weekend’s 31-24 win over Mississippi State to pump some life into the passing game.

Daniels, a sophomore transfer from Southern California, is finally healthy after tearing an ACL and sustaining meniscus damage in the Trojans’ 2019 season opener. He transferred to Georgia in late May and appears ready to live up to his billing as a top-notch thrower.

Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart is careful when it comes to discussing Daniels’ potential.

“I don’t know that you know that right now,” Smart told reporters. “You see him make good throws. I think his mobility is not going to do anything but hopefully improve. His decision-making — the people around him have to play well. He’s got to get a run game around him to help him in order to reach his full potential and things like that.”

Daniels’ stellar debut for Georgia (5-2, 5-2 SEC) represented a career high for passing yards — he threw for 349 against Notre Dame in 2018. He was the first Bulldogs’ signal caller to reach 400 yards since Aaron Murray passed for 415 against Auburn in 2013.

“It has just been a progression over time,” Daniels said. “I am feeling a lot better. I feel really good in terms of knee health and overall body health. In terms of emotions, in the end on the victory formation it started to sink in a little bit. But, it still really hasn’t yet that I have been able to play football again.”

Freshman receiver Jermaine Burton had 10 receptions entering the contest but Daniels connected with him eight times for 197 yards — the fourth-most in a game in school history — and two touchdowns.

South Carolina (2-6, 2-6) has lost four straight games and the Gamecocks might be making a quarterback change.

Freshman quarterback Luke Doty relieved Collin Hill and played the second half of last Saturday’s 17-10 loss to Missouri. Doty completed 14 of 23 passes for 130 yards and one interception. He added a team-high 59 yards on the ground in 11 attempts.

Interim Gamecocks coach Mike Bobo said he won’t announce a starting quarterback until Saturday.

Bobo said he has a long discussion with Doty on Monday.

“I told him I wanted him to be Luke Doty. I don’t want him to be anybody else other than Luke Doty,” Bobo said. “Sometimes comparisons are going to happen, but I leave that up to you guys. I’m stressing to be Luke Doty and who he is.”

Doty has drawn raves from teammates for his energy in practices and he said that will continue in games.

“I think everybody responds well to that, and it certainly showed (Tuesday),” Doty said. “We had a really good practice and everybody was really juiced up and just ready to work.”

Bobo is entering his second game as interim coach after replacing the fired Will Muschamp. He was a quarterback for Georgia from 1994-97, was the starter his last two seasons and was a teammate of Smart (1995-98), who had 13 interceptions in his Bulldogs career.

“It doesn’t change a lot for me,” Smart said of matching up against a friend. “It’s a game that we’re trying to win based on the players on the field. It’s not between Mike and I.”

Bobo was the head coach of Colorado State last year when Muschamp-led South Carolina upset the then-No. 3 Bulldogs, 20-17, in double overtime in Athens, Ga.