HOOVER, Ala. — While JT Daniels still hasn’t played in a game between Georgia and Florida, he learned quite a bit about the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party during his first year in Athens. Daniels missed last season’s matchup of the two rivals, a 44-28 victory for Florida that served as the deciding factor in the SEC East, but is bound to play a large part in this year’s battle between the Bulldogs and Gators.
A standout quarterback at Mater Dei (Irvine, Calif.), Daniels was rated a five-star prospect in the class of 2018 and ranked the No. 3 quarterback in the country behind eventual first-round picks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. Prior to his reclassification, graduation a full year early in order to enroll at USC, Daniels was the No. 1 player in the country for his recruiting class, having started three seasons at Mater Dei and led the Monarchs to two back-to-back state championships with a national championship in 2017. He was named Gatorade National Player of the Year, Max Preps National Player of the Year, and National High School Coaches Association Player of the Year among numerous other honors in 2017. Having been so far removed from the East Coast and the SEC, it comes as no surprise that Daniels wasn’t too familiar with the magnitude of Georgia-Florida until recently.
“Being from Southern Cal, I had not talked to Coach Smart until I hit the portal. I was not recruited by Georgia in high school. So understanding the true — I didn’t grow up in Georgia where I had the true Georgia-Florida rivalry ingrained,” Daniels said. “I think Florida is a great team, and I have a lot of respect, but that’s a game that you circle. There are games that you circle, and that’s a big game.”
“Watching the game, I mean, it’s tough because you lose and you lose to a rival because like nobody wants to lose and nobody wants to lose to a rival,” Daniels added. “I think it’s about as simple and cut and dry as that, in terms of that.”
Like Daniels, Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis missed last year’s game having suffered an elbow injury the week prior at Kentucky. As a major part of the Bulldog defense that struggled against the Gators, fans couldn’t help but question what could have been had the Georgia stars been able to play. However, like his quarterback, Davis is counting down the days to this year’s matchup on October 30.
“I can’t really say for sure. It’s what ifs, and we can’t really look back on it,” Davis responded when asked if the outcome could have been different with a full roster of Bulldogs. “I always love the opportunity to play in Jacksonville, definitely missed it, but we can only focus on what’s going on to the next season. Definitely, if I’m able and healthy, then I will definitely play my heart out against them because, after all, it’s a game, it’s another game that we’ve got to play. Florida is always an exciting time, especially playing in the Jacksonville stadium at neutral ground. I’m definitely ready for that part of the season.”