“What If” 5
We are back for another installment of (what I believe to be) the most popular feature in the history of UGA sportswriting. The “What If” series that is helping us get through the dawg days of summer. The good news? We are officially two weeks away from SEC Media Days. I’ve said in the past for me that is the first major domino to fall to getting back to college football season. So while we wait for at least that domino to fall, let’s continue talking about how the history of UGA football could be different.
What if Kirby Smart named Jamie Newman the starter in the spring?
If you follow UGA football with any sort of intensity, you know about Jamie Newman, even though he never played a down for the DAWGS. He was a graduate transfer from Wake Forest chosen to replace Jake Fromm who declared for the draft. Newman brought excitement to the fanbase. Live arm. Mobility. Willingness to throw deep and/or in the middle. The QB room looked like Newman, incoming freshman Carson Beck, redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis, and Stetson Bennett IV. Not too shabby.
Then Covid-19 happened. No spring practice. No spring game. No nothing. An ominous omen for a team replacing major pieces on the OL, the QB, and breaking in a new offensive coordinator. Through it all, Kirby Smart declined to name a starter. All signs pointed to Newman being the man, but Kirby wouldn’t just admit what we all knew. A graduate transfer usually comes to play, not hold a clipboard. (Do backups hold clipboards any more?) Just say it Kirby. Kirby did not just say it. Said the job would be earned. Okay, I guess. For some reason Kirby didn’t like naming a starter. Never even named Jake Fromm the starter in 2019 when our third stringer was a walk-on and our second stringer was a former walk-on. At a certain point it’s comical. Dispense with the old coach bullshit and just name a damn starter.
- *RUMOR ALERT*
This lack of formality irked Jamie Newman. Rumor had it, he went AWOL. Missed team Zoom meetings. Didn’t communicate with staff. Just bounced to the island of incommunicado. Eventually he came back around, and all was forgiven. Except now there was another name in the QB room: JT Daniels. The former starting QB at the University of Southern California, who lost his job to injury, was on the hunt for a new home. I’m willing to guess that Newman’s absence led Smart and UGA to go extra lengths to ensure Daniels called Athens his new home. I, for one, was shocked when Daniels came in.
Would Jamie have gone AWOL if he had simply been named the starter? I don’t think so. Would the team have brought in Daniels if Newman were named the starter? Again, I don’t think so. Would Newman have opted out for Covid-19 if he were the man? Maybe, but I have my doubts. I think that was borne out of Newman’s fear of a short leash and being pulled for Daniels at the first sign of trouble. Maybe his QB coach and noted UGA agitator Quincy Avery put a bug in his ear. Maybe he said he should sit and rest on his current resume at Wake Forest, he thought.
I think he was correct it could be a bad look if Newman got pulled, benched, and never regained his job. But I think a player of Newman’s caliber would’ve bet on himself and played anyway. Instead, he sat the 2020 season out. And for his efforts, he was rewarded with being an undrafted free agent in the NFL and getting cut not long after signing a free agent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. With all other 32 teams passing on him in the draft, he’s going to have to find another avenue to show what he can do if he wants to play in the NFL.
So what if Kirby named Jamie Newman the starter in spring?
I think we hang with Alabama in Tuscaloosa. I think he gives us enough offense to score with them in the second half. I think we defeat Florida going away in a showcase of offense. I think we defeat Bama with crucial adjustments in the SEC Championship game. I think we humiliate Justin Fields in the national title game and make him cry and wonder what if he had stayed on the team back in 2018. I think Jamie Newman never has to buy a beer in Athens ever again rather than never being welcomed in Athens ever again.
And JT Daniels sits alone in Knoxville wondering what the hell he got himself into.