Georgia and South Carolina both enter their matchup with 2-0 records as SEC play begins. However, both teams have questions at the quarterback position due to injuries to their starters, and both head coaches have played it close to the vest when asked who will start on Saturday.
Daniels, Bennett both uncertain
In the leadup to the UAB game 247Sports reported that JT Daniels had a core injury and that his status for the game was in doubt. Many expected Carson Beck to get the start at quarterback, but as the week went on, Stetson Bennett became the favorite to get the nod.
In the end, it was Bennett who got the start against UAB, putting up an impressive 288 yards with five touchdown passes as the Bulldogs cruised to a 56-7 victory. This week, Bennett has popped up on the injury report for Georgia with a strained back, putting his status for the South Carolina game in doubt.
Head coach Kirby Smart commented on the quarterbacks this week, but unsurprisingly didn’t give much insight into which of his quarterbacks will start against the Gamecocks.
“JT feels much better. He's continued to improve,” Smart said. “I think he’s better now than he was on Saturday. I don’t know if he’s 100 percent but he’s certainly getting closer to that.”
While this does seem to indicate that Daniels is improving and getting closer to returning to the starting quarterback position, it doesn’t give any clarity on his status for this week.
Smart was similarly vague about Bennett’s status, again indicating that he’s dealing with an injury but not making it clear if he’ll be ready to play on Saturday.
“He’s been dinged up since Monday morning, but he went out and practiced as well,” Smart said. “So they’re all three practicing, and I wouldn’t say 100 percent, I think Carson is 100 percent healthy but the other two are still pushing back.”
It seems likely that Georgia will not reveal a starting quarterback until right before the game kicks off, similar to how the situation played out before the UAB game.
Zeb Noland goes from coach to quarterback
The quarterback situation at South Carolina is a unique one. Presumptive starter Luke Doty suffered a foot injury in fall camp, and rather than turning to another quarterback on the roster, head coach Shane Beamer opted to roll with one of his coaches.
Enter graduate assistant Zeb Noland, a 24-year old who played quarterback for Iowa State from 2017-2018 and North Dakota State from 2019-2021. After appearing in seven games for NDSU in a delayed and shortened spring 2021 season, Noland initially chose to forego his final year of eligibility to join Beamer’s staff. When Doty went down, Noland took over and started the first two games for South Carolina.
Noland has done an admirable job in his first two starts with the Gamecocks, passing for 335 yards and five touchdowns, but the Georgia defense presents a much stronger challenge than Eastern Illinois and East Carolina’s.
Asked this week about Doty’s health, Beamer made it clear that Doty is progressing and will be ready to return to game action soon.
“Doty continues to get more and more healthy,” Beamer said. “We practiced last night (Sunday) and he went through the practice and did more in practice last night than he has since he got hurt. We fully expect him to be 100 percent on Saturday night over in Athens also.”
However, when asked if this meant Doty would be the starter against the Bulldogs, Beamer emphasized that “it’s always about competition” and refused to name a starter.
“I feel confident in all of our quarterbacks, whether it’s Zeb or Luke or anyone else we have on our roster,” Beamer said. “We have to play well at quarterback, but the other guys around him, the other 10 on offense certainly have to play well no matter who’s in at quarterback for us.”
It seems like a very real possibility that both Doty and Noland play against Georgia, but who gets the start and how the playing time is split up remains to be seen.