As the number five ranked Georgia Bulldogs play the third ranked Clemson Tigers Saturday night in Uptown Charlotte, the expectations heading into this season are sky high.
In his sixth season as head coach, Kirby Smart is more confident in his team, specifically his quarterback and offense.
“Much more confidence in this year compared to last not knowing for sure [who the quarterback would be]” said Smart. “A lot of it had to do with no spring.”
Daniels has shown that he can lead the Bulldogs offense. Smart spoke about his leadership and how he prepares.
“I’m very confident in J.T.’s preparation up to this point and over the summer,” Smart said. “The distractions that the outside world has, they’re not distractions for J.T. as he is focused on being the best.”
Last preseason compared to this year’s preseason has been night and day for the Bulldogs. Last season, many wondered who would eventually play quarterback for Georgia as three players fought for playing time: D’Wan Mathis, Stetson Bennett and J.T. Daniels. As the season progressed, the Bulldogs’ quarterback conundrum cost them games against Alabama and Florida before Daniels finally won the job after throwing for 401 yards and four touchdowns against Mississippi State.
This year, the Bulldogs offense came into the season with expectations of claiming the SEC East and SEC title, a college football playoff berth and a national championship for the first time since 1980. Daniels, who led the Bulldogs to a Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati and finished with 1231 yards passing and 12 touchdowns in four games seeks to lead a high powered and talented Bulldogs offense this season.
Clemson isn’t a slouch or pushover by any stretch of the imagination. The Tigers will feature quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, who has the opportunity to put his stamp on the program after Trevor Lawrence departed for the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Uiagalelei completed 66.6% of his passes for 914 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in two fill-in starts last season. Meanwhile, Georgia will see a lot of new faces in their secondary after the departures of Richard LeCounte and Eric Stokes. Smart gives a lot of credit to their defense and knows that is a spot that the Bulldogs offense will have to win their individual battles. Keep an eye out for Ex-Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick, who was projected as a potential NFL first-rounder in several mock drafts, transferred to Georgia after his dismissal from Clemson. He is set to play a big role for the Bulldogs this season.
Clemson returns sixth-year seniors in linebacker James Skalski and safety Nolan Turner. Additionally the Tigers have eight defensive lineman who have starting experience
“Their [defensive] front is twitchy, athletic and able to rush the passer,” Smart said. “They’ve affected every quarterback they’ve played in terms of sacks.”
The Tigers finished with 46 sacks in the 2020 season along with 14 interceptions and 13 forced fumbles.
The Georgia Bulldogs will face off against the Clemson Tigers Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30. Clemson has won the last five ACC Championship games played in Charlotte.