Georgia Success Starts With Getting Daniels Comfortable
There is a game within the game today for Georgia when they take the field against Mississippi State. JT Daniels will be playing for the first time in a Georgia uniform. Coordinator Todd Monken and his offensive staff will have to plan around this, but the question is, how do they do it?
The offense will have to start and stop with how effective running back Zamir White will be, especially at the beginning of the game. It appears likely Monken throws odd blocking personnel onto the field to establish the ground game early. Last week's first play against Florida, where the Bulldogs came out in 23 personnel, could be a preview of the game's first few possessions. To come out of the gate relying on Daniels is not a recipe for success. Instead, he needs to be eased into the game in the first few drives.
The second piece to the puzzle is making as many throws as possible easy on Daniels in the first half. Let the first throw be quick, whether it is an RPO, boundary screen or a quick halfback screen. From there, always have the primary read within the short to intermediate levels. Daniels has the arm talent to stretch the field, but he hasn't seen live game action in 14 months. Let Daniels feel the pocket structure, read safeties and become comfortable moving up and down the field at his pace.
The ideal target time to set Daniels loose is on the last few series of the first half. If Georgia can establish the run and play good defense, they should be playing with a lead early. Against an aggressive Mississippi State front seven, this will force an already heavy blitz team to bring additional pressure. Throw in a few play-action shots at the end of the half to build momentum. When Daniels can see the deep completion and generate a big play himself, it will build his confidence for the second half going into the locker room.
The skill-position players for Georgia will have to generate big plays. As noted, the offense will go as White does, but the wide receivers also will have to do a lot of work on their own. The return of wide receiver George Pickens will help everyone in the receiver room, because he demands constant double-teams across the field. This leaves holes in other zones, players in one-on-one coverage and more opportunities.
Playing with a lead will be the most significant advantage Georgia can give themselves in today's game. This team is not built to play from behind, and coupled with the fact that Daniels is making his first start, this will prove crucial. If they can give themselves room for a mistake, the odds for the team look very good.