No. 2 Georgia (2-0) will host SEC East division foe South Carolina (2-0) in the conference opener on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
There are some eerily similar storylines for both teams ahead of the matchup between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks.
Both teams are currently dealing with injuries at the quarterback position. South Carolina starting quarterback Luke Doty is expected to start against Georgia on Saturday. However, graduate assistant and former Oconee County quarterback Zeb Noland has started for the Gamecocks through their first two games and led them to a 2-0 start.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart commented on USC’s quarterback dilemma on Monday.
“We got to see Luke (Doty) last year,” the sixth-year head coach said. “He’s an incredible athlete, he creates problems in terms of extending plays. You know, he’s a really good athlete; he can move the pocket around, against us last year on offense, but overall a good athlete.”
Smart also acknowledged the job that Noland did in Doty’s absence.
“But, my man down the road right here, Zeb, has done a great job,” he added. “He’s come in and played really well. It was interesting, I’m good friends with his dad, and getting to watch him play in those first two games was just unique because he played really well, and I’m like, this guy was a GA, and he jumped in and played quarterback, played winning football, and made good decisions.”
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels has been dealing with an oblique injury., so senior Stetson Bennett got the start over redshirt freshman Carson Beck on Saturday against UAB. The former Pierce County quarterback shined and passed for five touchdowns in the first half, tying a school record, which only four quarterbacks in school history have ever been able to accomplish that feat.
Smart acknowledged after the win against UAB that Daniels is “day to day”. On Monday, his head coach elaborated on the subject a little more.
“The approach is rest, recovery, and treatment, and we’ve done the best we can with that,” Smart said. “The biggest thing that we’ve been told is that you don’t want to aggravate it. He’s been dealing with it since – he felt it prior to Clemson. He felt like he had a tweak, but something happened in the Clemson game to fire it back up. We don’t know. We’ve gone back to watch the tape, you know, he didn’t take a lot of shots.”
Smart pointed out that Daniels really felt the pain after he woke on Sunday morning following the win over the Tigers.
“It was a really, really painful injury that is hard to relieve that pain,” Smart said. “He has to heal, and it takes time, but again, he’s improving through each and every day.”
Other than the quarterback situation, there are several coaches on both teams who are familiar with one another.
For example, first-year South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer coached at Georgia under Smart during the national championship run in 2017. He then went to Oklahoma to take a job coaching under Lincoln Riley before being hired by the Gamecocks earlier this year.
Smart spoke highly of his former assistant coach.
“He was part of our original staff like Sam (Pittman) was,” Smart said. “He’s a guy who has always had good leadership skills, he ran most of our special teams. He’s always had leadership qualities that would make him a good head coach and I think he took the job at Oklahoma so he would have an opportunity like this, and that’s what he has done.”
Oddly enough, former South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, who Beamer replaced, was hired at Georgia in the offseason as a defensive analyst. Now, the former Georgia standout will be on the field coaching special teams against his former program, which he was let go from less than a year ago. Muschamp will be filling in for Scott Cochran, who hasn’t been with the team since August as he is dealing with “personal issues.”
Smart was asked if the former USC head coach can have some impact on this game for Georgia.
“I don’t know that, it’s a personnel change, right?” Smart said. “We go through this all the time with DK on Clemson, we go through it every year – somebody changes spots. You guys write about it, make a big deal about it, and it’s not that big a deal. He’s not in their meetings, he doesn’t know their game plan. He does know who their players are, and I just don’t know how that helps you a lot. We know their heights, weight, and we’ve got their tape, and the tape speaks for itself. He just might know more about them in terms of what strengths and weaknesses there are.”
The kickoff is set for 7 p.m.