Who is anointed to take the first snap in the Georgia Dome is the topic I expect most Georgia fans will be chewing over the longest until the season opener. One good thing about the way G-Day played out is that we got to see plenty of passing, so there’s plenty to argue about until then.
As far as my observations go, as you read them, please keep in mind that I’m the same guy who thought after watching last year’s G-Day game that the Dawgs had at least one quarterback on the roster who was capable of being a consistent SEC-caliber starter. So… yeah.
Anyway, here’s the cast, in alphabetical order:
- Jacob Eason. Is he the most physically gifted quarterback on Georgia’s roster? He is. For all the arm strength, did he manage to show good touch on his throws? He did. Were his footwork and mechanics more polished than I expected for a kid in his fifteenth practice? They were. And what about his presence in the huddle – did it look like his teammates responded to him? They did. Is he ready to start? Yea… um, wait a minute. He faced a vanilla defense, and even with that, looked a little tentative against the occasional blitz. Nor did he operate much under center, which no doubt added to his comfort level. He held the ball a little too long now and then, something that’ll get him killed against a good SEC defense. I had a sense in the latter part of the game that he pressed a little to make things happen, which was understandable. But, damn, there sure was a lot to love, starting with that first beautiful throw to Ridley. They’re not going to hand him the job, and, in fact, I suspect the coaches are going to hold his inexperience against him a little harder out of a general sense of prudence, but you know they’re hoping hard he grows the most over the next four months. Eason is the future. We just don’t know when the future is scheduled to arrive.
- Greyson Lambert. Let’s get the obvious part out of the way first. The pick six was the culmination of everything that Lambert does wrong – bad mechanics, bad read, bad placement. Before that, though, he hadn’t been bad. The pass to Chigbu that should have been a touchdown was beautifully thrown. Lambert’s footwork was better than I saw much of last year. He does have a good sense of what to do in the offense. But there was still too much locking on targets for my taste. In the end, though, if Lambert doesn’t hold on to the starting job – that’s not a prediction, by the way – I suspect it will be for something that Smart claims is very important. He clearly lacks mobility, more than any quarterback who played Saturday. He lacks escapability when the pocket breaks down and looks flat out uncomfortable rolling out and throwing. If he keeps the spot, it’ll be because the coaches think he’s the best at avoiding trouble, but his limitations will restrict what Chaney can call from his playbook.
- Brice Ramsey. Lost in all the excitement over Eason was Ramsey’s very, very nice day. He made some good reads, he rolled out and threw, he had enough presence of mind not to fold on a busted handoff, and, best of all, showed touch on several passes that he hadn’t shown last season. More than any quarterback out there, he made me think that Jim Chaney’s a pretty decent position coach. He had a couple of good looking deep balls of his own. Bottom line is that he’s legitimately back in the mix, and after last season, that’s something I didn’t expect.
- Nick Robinson. Who? Geez, he didn’t look bad at all. Robinson went 5-7 with a touchdown on his one series and looked crisp making decisions doing so. He also did a terrific job selling play action. I made a facetious comment to my friend after the game that maybe he should have gotten the start against Florida last year, but, honestly, for a fourth-string quarterback, he hardly looked embarrassing.
I definitely don’t want to get too far ahead of things here. For one, as I mentioned, last year’s experience is a good reminder not to do so. Beyond that, D’Andre Walker and a couple of blitzes aside, the quarterbacks as a group didn’t face the kind of pressure they’re going to see come September. Smart is right to emphasize who can make the best decisions as the key.
As well as the staff appears to have managed the group so far, the big decision to come is when to pull the trigger on making the big decision to come. I thought last season’s hesitation to name a starter until very late in fall camp hurt when it came to developing timing and communication – and that was when Georgia had some experienced wide receivers and most of the offensive line returning. This year, that’s not the case, and when you toss in the possibility of starting a true freshman quarterback, I’m not sure holding off until a week or so before the first game is where you want to go.
On the other hand, Smart thinks competition is the way you forge successful college players. If he’s not satisfied with how the group handles the challenge, I don’t think he’ll name a starter just to name a starter. Sure, Eason is the tantalizing option here, but as much as I’m sure we’d all like to see the young stud out there, what Smart wants more than anything is for one of these guys to take the bull by the horns and run with it, no matter who that may turn out to be. In short, stay tuned for further development.