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For Tennessee, missing on JT Daniels stings — Georgia landing him makes it worse

Tennessee didn’t land a player. That’s new for this offseason.

Fresno State v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Everyone who’s anyone has chosen Tennessee this offseason.

Brandon Kennedy decided to come back for his redshirt senior season. Trey Smith decided to come back for his senior season. A flurry of commitments from late April into early May pushed the Vols to the 2nd best recruiting class in the nation for 2021. And, to top it all off, Barstool Sports’ Big Cat brought fictional coach Gus Duggerton to Rocky Top in his NCAA Football 14 Dynasty.

When USC quarterback JT Daniels announced his intent to transfer he was quickly linked with Tennessee as a potential landing spot. Despite the Vols’ being over the scholarship limit at the time of his announcement the connection with Tennessee made sense for a number of reasons — i.e. relationships with current staff and players as well as a perceived need to upgrade the quarterback position.

However, on Thursday Daniels made a shocking decision.

Seemingly out of nowhere he chose to continue his college career at Georgia. And, I have to be honest, I’m a little jealous. I really got used to winning at everything, so to see us lose one time stings.

The reality is that Daniels is an extremely talented quarterback.

Daniels was originally a class of 2019 recruit, but he reclassified into the 2018 class and graduated early. Although he was essentially playing up a year he ranked behind only Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields in the class of 2018 quarterback rankings. At USC he won a quarterback competition to become only the fourth true freshman ever to start a game at signal caller for the Trojans.

In 2019 the Trojans changed offensive coordinators and systems entirely as they adopted the Air Raid with Graham Harrell. They again held an open competition for quarterback, and again Daniels emerged as the winner. He started the season opener, and had a strong first half, before tearing his ACL and meniscus resulting in the loss of his season.

For Vols fans there is really only one argument that could be made to dismiss this pick-up by the Bulldogs. Daniels is statistically similar to Jarrett Guarantano, who has been somewhat underwhelming in his career at Tennessee. In my opinion, this isn’t a very strong argument. Although Daniels and Guarantano have been statistically similar to this point Daniels’ numbers are almost exclusively from a true freshman campaign when he really should have been playing high school ball. Guarantano, on the other hand, has been in college for four years now, and has served as the primary starting quarterback for two of those years. It’s reasonable to assume that Daniels will only continue to improve with more exposure to the college game.

The reality is this is a great addition for Georgia. The Bulldogs get a quarterback with a cannon arm and Power-5 starting experience that has up to three years of eligibility remaining — whether he will be immediately eligible for the 2020 season remains to be seen. And, more importantly, they keep him from landing in Knoxville where he would have made an immediate impact.

Oh well. We can’t win them all. With Harrison Bailey on board, and Kaidon Salter committed, the future of quarterback on Rocky Top still looks extremely bright.