Kirby Smart and Dan Mullen have decided to be very coy about the quarterback situation they are both dealing with as they head into their showdown in Jacksonville. This isn’t at all surprising. Neither coach wants to give away his game plan, with the game being so close. But it doesn’t really matter what either one of them say, because each of them knows what’s coming.
Take Florida, for instance, who has been playing two quarterbacks for most of the season. Emory Jones has gotten a majority of the snaps, but after the performance Anthony Richardson gave at LSU, the tide may be starting to shift. But that is just an assumption I’ve made based off watching both QBs play. When asked about the situation, well, Dan Mullen continued to give the same answer as usual.
“We’re going to continue playing them the same way.”
Honestly, that seems about right, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from Mullen. But the problem is that Richardson has shown he can lead this football team, while Emory Jones doesn’t provide as much of a threat to opposing defenses. If Kirby Smart is looking at this Florida offense, he’s likely more worried about the backup than the previous starter. Smart was asked about both UF quarterbacks running the football, and he compared them to another SEC QB.
“Well they are probably faster than KJ (Jefferson). They have an offensive line that is really big. They have a run game scheme that is built to allow the quarterback to run. Dan (Mullen) doesn’t abort the run, he uses the run game to set up his play-actions and when you least expect it, he runs the quarterback. Those guys are just really good runners. It is a different dynamic between those guys and KJ. KJ is a big physical guy, those guys are elusive and powerful and they throw the ball well too and have a good supporting cast around them — I’m talking about the wide-outs.”
Though both coaches may be struggling to decide which of their two quarterbacks to start, they both have very different reasons and a very different game plan, which will affect whatever decision they make.
Kirby Smart is currently dealing with one quarterback coming back from injury and another who has been steadily leading the team. It was reported on Tuesday that JT Daniels has been a full participant in practice for the first time in four weeks, after dealing with a strained lat muscle. On the other hand, Stetson Bennett has been the starter for the past three games, but is now splitting reps with the first team offense. Still, Kirby isn’t tipping his hand about who is currently leading the race.
“They both looked good, and they’re both doing a good job,” he said. “So, we’ll go into Wednesday and see how the day goes.”
Statistically, Georgia is a much better running team when Bennett is behind center, compared to Daniels. The Dawgs’ offense seems to be a bit more pass centered when Daniels is in the game, which can then lead to a quandary. Which game plan should Smart implement on Saturday? Even with RB Kendal Milton dealing with a knee injury, the Dawgs shouldn’t have a problem running the football against the Gators. But in the overall game plan, we’ve seen Stetson Bennett play Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn, with success coming in each game.
Dan Mullen can see the difference in quarterbacks, even when they are calling the same play.
“Even if you run the same play with two different quarterbacks, each one’s going to bring a little bit different strength to it,” Mullen said. “So, you just have to have the awareness of which quarterback is in the game.”
So as we get closer to kickoff in Jacksonville, the main question for both teams is which quarterback will finish the game, not necessarily which one will start. I think we can all agree that Anthony Richardson played a pivotal role in the Gators’ offense last Saturday, while Georgia brings a different flavor with both quarterbacks. Do the Dawgs continue to run the football with Bennett, or do they try to open it up more in the passing game with Daniels? These are the questions that will be answered on Saturday afternoon.
Either way, both head coaches are preparing for two different quarterbacks and dealing with QB decisions of their own. This should make for an interesting pre-game warmup, at the very least.