ESPN analysts preview QB showdown between Uiagalelei, Daniels
On College Football Live, ESPN college football analysts Desmond Howard and Greg McElroy previewed the marquee quarterback duel between Clemson’s D.J. Uiagalelei and Georgia’s JT Daniels ahead of the Week 1 showdown between the third-ranked Tigers and No. 5 Bulldogs in Charlotte.
Daniels, entering his second season with UGA after transferring from Southern Cal, served as Georgia’s starting quarterback in the last four games of the 2020 season and finished with 80 completions (119 attempts) for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Uiagalelei completed 78-of-117 passes for 914 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions over 10 games (two starts) as a true freshman in 2020.
Howard was asked what intrigues him most about the quarterback battle that will be seen Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.
“You look at JT Daniels and what he brings to Georgia’s offense … We saw it a year ago,” Howard said. “He didn’t play the first six games, but when he did get in there and control the offense, it was a completely different offense. They scored eight points more a game with him at the quarterback position, averaged over a hundred yards of offense more. And what’s more important is they converted at a rate of 53 percent, when before he was playing quarterback, they only converted at a rate of 42 percent.
“So, he brings experience, he brings knowledge. He’s going to be the guy that’s going to make sure they’re on schedule, that they are out of bad plays and get into good plays. He’s more than a game manager because I love the way that he throws the ball with such accuracy, such confidence. I just like what he brings to the offense. Make sure you pay attention to Georgia with JT Daniels.”
McElroy believes Daniels is not the most talented signal-caller of the two, however, and compared Uiagalelei to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“And Des, he’s the lesser talented quarterback in this matchup,” said McElroy, the former Alabama quarterback, in regard to Daniels. “Now, talent doesn’t necessarily always breed success. But if you look at DJ Uiagalelei, his skillset, the unique mobility for a guy that’s that big, he’s like Ben Roethlisberger. I mean, I don’t know who else to really compare. Not Ben Roethlisberger of 2021, Des — Ben Roethlisberger of 10, 12 years ago that can run around, evade defensive tackles, make guys miss and still drive the ball accurately down the field.”
McElroy added that while some have wondered how Uiagalelei will fare this season without a running back like Travis Etienne in the backfield with him, McElroy thinks Uiagalelei will be just fine.
“And what was amazing about DJ Uiagalelei last year — yes, he played against Boston College, it wasn’t pretty,” McElroy said. “They ended up having to come back in the game, they ended up winning it late in that game. But what he did the following week (against Notre Dame) with Travis Etienne — and a lot of people have said well, what’s Clemson going to look like without Travis Etienne — Travis Etienne, in D.J. Uiagalelei’s second career start, had 28 yards on 18 carries.
“So, that further proves that D.J. does not need the benefit of a quality run game to be able to give his team a chance against top-tier competition. We all know that Notre Dame team went on to make the College Football Playoff. So, this is a guy that has not played a lot, but in what little he has played, he’s been extremely impressive and poised.”
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