The quarterback battle at Georgia is shrouded in mystery, some of it because no candidate has truly separated himself from the pack, some of it because the coaching staff has been closed-mouthed about it.
Georgia coach Mark Richt kept the information sealed pretty tight as well afterwards about what happened inside. Instead of offering up any statistics, he took the quite unusual step of offering zilch on numbers that would undoubtedly be sliced and diced.
“You don’t all have to get carpal tunnel and all that stuff trying to click all the keys,” he told a room of reporters.
He later added: “There’s a method to the madness here. I think it’s important that we’re the ones that watch the film, we’re the ones that decide who the guy is. We don’t need anybody in the media telling us who should be the starter and that kind of thing.”
Richt said the quarterback competition between redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey, redshirt junior Faton Bauta and Virginia graduate transfer Greyson Lambert is still close.
“Right now, it’s been very equal as far as reps and there hasn’t been a huge landslide of one guy just running away with it,” Richt said. “If you had rounds in boxing, you might have said that guy won that round, that guy won that round, that guy won that round. I will say it’s still a very tight race. I don’t believe we have any separation at this point.”
Georgia is far from alone in that department. Take Alabama, where Nick Saban, other than the Miss Terry reference, sounds like a Richt clone on the subject.
“Miss Terry was here today and I’m sure when I go home I’m going to get a real ‘earful’ about the quarterbacks, and who played best and who she likes the best and all that,” Saban said with a smile.
Point being, Saban knows everyone has an opinion on who they like or who they believe should be the Tide’s next quarterback. But coming out of the team’s first scrimmage, nothing has been decided. Senior Jake Coker, junior Alec Morris, sophomore Cooper Bateman, redshirt freshman David Cornwell and freshman Blake Barnett are still competing for the job.
Saban’s post-scrimmage message was very similar to what he said following the Tide’s scrimmage during last year’s preseason practice. No statistics were provided following the session.
“From a quarterback standpoint, I can’t really say that one guy was better than another,” Saban said Saturday. “I think all did good things and I think all did some things not so well. I would love to see one of these guys sort of take the bull by the horns and play with a sense of urgency that affects everybody else, that shows leadership and sort of the kind of command and confidence that I think our team needs.”
But what if no one stands out? What if no quarterback emerges and “takes the bull by the horns” as Saban wants someone to do? To those questions, Saban initially responded “I don’t know.”
Then the coach gathered his thoughts.
“The way I see it happening is as soon as we start gaining a little bit of confidence in a guy and we put him in a situation where ‘Ok, you have a chance to be the guy,’ then they have to take advantage of that,” Saban said. “They have to be able to take the ball and run with it. And we’ve seen that a couple of times and then it’s a little bit like, ‘Giddy up, whoa!'”
Meanwhile in Columbia, the famously impatient OBC sounds like he’s already rounding into midseason form.
“We’re too slow. We just too slow. Our quarterbacks don’t move their feet and fire the ball,” Spurrier said. “The thing all quarterbacks have to do is get the ball out of their hands. (Freshman Lorenzo Nunez) is our only true scrambler. He can take off. Our (other) guys need to find somewhere to throw the ball.”
The Gamecocks aren’t close to being comfortable enough to name a starting quarterback but are faced with the reality that practice snaps are becoming more and more scarce between now and the Sept. 3 season opener against North Carolina in Charlotte.
“We have to stop training four, we do know that, so we’ll start training two and a half, maybe three and a half,” Spurrier said.
The “and a half” you can bet is Nunez, whose athleticism will get him on the field in some capacity this season, even if it’s as a part-time Wildcat QB.
Who the other two are is up for debate after Saturday evening. Sophomore Connor Mitch was 5-for-11 for 42 yards and one interception. He benefited from playing behind the first-team offensive line but was the victim of a couple of bad drops. (Spurrier: “He hit a few here and there.”) Junior Perry Orth was 3-for-6 for 42 yards and one interception while often being swarmed by defensive linemen behind the second-team offensive line. (Spurrier: “Perry struggled a bit today.”) Redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia was 11-for-14 for 81 yards behind the first-team offensive line. (Spurrier: “Scarnecchia did a few good things here and there.”) Nunez was 5-for-8 for 25 yards and one interception.
The best of the bunch?
“We didn’t have one,” Spurrier said.
“Hopefully, we can continue on and try to find out who the best is,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t play four quarterbacks like we’re doing right now, so we’ll look at the tape and try to make some good, realistic decisions.”
They didn’t leave Williams-Brice Stadium any more confident in those decisions than they were when they entered.
If I were a visor, I’d be a little concerned right now.
And if I were an SEC running back, I’d be gearing up for heavy usage.