At the risk of inviting the wrath of trolls on my head, I thought I’d take a moment to parse some of the tea leaves from yesterday’s scrimmage. Obviously, the big story is what’s happening with the quarterback battle. If we all hoped going into the spring that there would be competition for the starting spot, as opposed to Ramsey falling into it (which is what Mason assumed would have been the case had Bobo stayed as offensive coordinator), that’s still alive. But it’s not Jacob Park who’s providing the heat.
Georgia’s quarterback competition is now a two-man race, and it’s tight at the top.
The Bulldogs won’t come out and say that, but their actions during spring practice make it clear that the starting job next season will be decided between Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Through the first two scrimmages, those two quarterbacks are getting virtually all of the snaps — and all the pass attempts — with the first and second offenses.
Meanwhile, Jacob Park’s participation has been almost exclusively with the third team, with some limited repetitions coming on the second unit.
In fact, when coach Mark Richt was reading off statistics from Saturday’s scrimmage, the second of the spring, he initially forgot to include Park’s all together.
Richt claims none of the three have been eliminated from consideration, though. Yesterday marked the second straight scrimmage that Park had fewer opportunities to throw the ball than did the other two. Richt chalks some of that up to rotation, but even he admits that term doesn’t mean the same thing now that it did a week ago.
“The first scrimmage was just how we had the roll — every day, a different guy had the one unit, a different guy had the two and three. So it just happened to be on that day, that was the day that Brice was one, Faton was two, and Park was three,” Richt said. “But this time around we wanted to make sure Park got reps with the twos instead of the three unit. We did rotate the other guys more. It wasn’t like the whole day Brice or the whole day Faton with the ones. We wanted to keep rotating that around and we’re not done rotating. We’re still learning.”
Had I to guess – and it’s not like I have anything better to do, right? – I’d say that Park has two things working against him right now. One, he’s simply less experienced than the competition. Two, you have to wonder if he’s shaken off those bad habits he admitted picking up when running the scout team last season. And judging from this,
“You know what, they’re getting there. They really are,” Richt said. “They’re learning a lot. Of course, the better you protect, the easier it is to prove that you know your progressions and can get to your second and third guy. We had a few more catches for our running backs, which means we hit more check downs than we have. We’d been trying to always make the big-league throw down the middle. … We had only pick collectively and we had a lot more in the first scrimmage.”
it’s pretty clear that the head man is putting the same emphasis on not taking risks on offense that he did last season, an approach that seems as valid this year as it was in 2014, given Georgia’s strengths on offense.
That’s not to say we should stick a fork in Park’s chances just yet. There’s still the rest of the spring and August practice to go through, and maybe even some time in the opening two games, if the coaches really are taking their time to reach a final decision. But that “We’re still learning” comment cuts both ways.
On to Bauta, though. The kid whose chances most of us thought were dead after Ramsay passed him in the pecking order last season has resurrected them. Has the change at offensive coordinator given him a new lease on life? Maybe. But it sounds like maybe he deserves a little credit for some basic tenacity.
Bauta was always known as the most mobile quarterback on Georgia’s roster. But his passing and command of the offense have improved.
“From the day Faton has been here, I’ve always thought Faton really was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen on any level of any sport I’ve ever played,” tight end Jay Rome said. “I mean, Faton works hard, year-round, and I think it’s really paying off for him. I think the biggest thing is he’s just gaining more confidence in himself and in his arm.
“Some people might look at Faton as just a running guy in years past. But I think people are really underestimating how good of a pass-thrower that Faton is and how much of a pass-thrower that he’s become.”
What makes him a better passer?
“I really feel it’s his ability to find the open guy and really let it loose,” Rome said. “Not to be too flustered about somebody coming in. He’s stepping up in the pocket, he’s not looking to run first. He’s really finding the open guy, and he’s putting lasers on people.”
I doubt he suddenly has Ramsey’s arm strength, but after last season, is that really necessary for Georgia to be successful on offense? Is avoiding mistakes more important to Richt and Schottenheimer than having a quarterback who can make all the throws Murray and Stafford could make? I don’t know, but Richt sure sounded happy about checkdowns.
“Last week, he threw more balls that could have been picked, in my opinion,” Richt said, adding later, “As the scrimmage was going on, I didn’t see a lot of bad decisions by the quarterbacks.”
And on a team with Nick Chubb and other talented running backs, simply making good decisions might be the most important barometer.
“We’ve been forcing the ball, trying to make the big-league throw down the middle, or the deeper (pass),” Richt said. “Sometimes your first progression is deep and you work your way short. And sometimes there’s a protection issue where you’ve got to cut the ball loose. This whole last week, we worked a lot harder on (making) sure you know who your check-downs are and be willing to take it.”
Of course, what you’d really like is a combination of great arm strength and sound decision-making. And a pony, I guess. But you go to war with the quarterbacks you have, and it sounds like Richt will take being careful over arm cannons. Which I assume means Bauta’s chances aren’t an illusion. Should make for an interesting G-Day.
Enough on the quarterbacks. Another point of interest is something that was suggested by Schottenheimer’s pro tendencies to involve the tight end in his offenses. We’re starting to see something in the spring along those lines.
One trend that seems to have emerged in spring camp is that the Bulldogs will continue to target tight ends with regularity. Jay Rome, Jeb Blazevich and early-enrollee Jackson Harris each had three catches, and Harris caught two for touchdowns during Saturday’s scrimmage. Rome and Blazevich had seven receptions between them in the first scrimmage.
“I definitely feel like we had a really good day (Saturday), and we had a good day last Saturday as well,” Rome said. “The system that (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) brought here to Georgia is really tight-end friendly. If we keep getting opportunities we’re going to keep making plays.”
That’s the first time I’ve seen someone refer to Schottenheimer bringing in his system. And, again, given the relative strengths and weaknesses of Georgia’s offense at this point, more use of the tight ends makes good sense.
On defense, it’s not about installing a new system, or even figuring out the key player to run it. It’s more about figuring how to fit the existing pieces in the puzzle. One good thing to note is that it seems the coaches made good decisions about talent evaluation, as both Amaechi and Ganus continue to shine. Richt singled both out for praise in terms of being quick learners.
Finally, if you’re interested, here’s the latest configuration of the starting secondary:
… Sophomore Reggie Wilkerson is working with the No. 1 defense as the “star,” or nickel back. The rest of the starting secondary has Quincy Mauger at strong safety, Dominick Sanders at free safety and Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish at the corners.
This is Jeremy Pruitt we’re talking about here, so don’t exactly consider that etched in stone. More like drawn in sand on a beach somewhere…