There might not be anybody around better prepared for college football than Carson Beck.
That’s what his high school coach thinks. And we’re not talking about physical stature and arm talent here.
Beck has that, for sure. The longtime Georgia Bulldogs commitment, a quarterback from Jacksonville, Fla., definitely has those God-given gifts. He’s every bit of 6-foot-5, counting the poofy, light-brown piled atop his head. He’s athletically thin at 226 pounds. And, yes, he can sling it.
“As far as physical talent, people will be like, ‘holy cow!’” said Bobby Ramsay, Beck’s coach at Mandarin High. “I’m not dissing Jake Fromm in any way – he’s a great quarterback – but (Beck) has a bigger arm. I’m not saying he’s a better quarterback than Fromm or he’s going to be better than Fromm, but he’s got more arm talent. People will see that.”
The Bulldogs will see that real soon. Beck will sign with the Bulldogs around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period for college football. By the weekend, or the first of next week, Beck will be in Athens working out with the team as an early enrollee.
But the aptitude necessary to graduate early and the possession of great physical gifts aren’t what Ramsay was talking about when he said Beck is more ready for college than most. He’s talking the maturity that comes with being examined, studied and criticized in the public sphere for an extended period of time.
You know, the kind of endless discourse current Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm has been exposed to for a while now.
Beck has walked a similar path in the last year. He went from the quarterback that could do no wrong as a junior to “what’s wrong with the quarterback” as a senior.
The parallels between the two quarterbacks are uncanny.
Beck lit the world afire as a junior. He threw the ball all over the place leading Mandarin up and down the field on its way to the first state championship in school history. He passed for 3,546 yards and 39 touchdowns – five in the state title game alone -- during a 12-4 season.
This year has been a relative slog. Beck passed for almost exactly half the yards (1,843) and touchdowns (20), completed only 48.9 percent of his passes and Mandarin finished 7-4.
For Ramsay, it wasn’t that hard to understand. Mandarin lost 18 starters off the championship team, including four receivers and seven offensive players overall who signed college scholarships.
“It was the culmination of graduation and a lot expected out of him,” Ramsay said. “Early in the season he was pressing. He was trying to make the All-American throws all the time. We talked about it, and I told him he didn’t need to be great all the time, just to let the game come to him. From Game 5 on, he started to play within himself again.”
Beck finished with nine touchdowns passes and one interception in his final five games. Mandarin finished 7-4, but well short of defending its state championship.
“It’s not one of those programs you can pencil in the semifinals every year,” explained Ramsay, who once coached running back Derrick Henry in Yulee, Fla. “I don’t now anybody in the country who had the scenario he did. He was basically playing with 10 new starters around him, and most of them were young, like just up from JV.”
Of course, with the lack of success came ridicule and scorn. Playing in Florida, the narrative was that Beck was an elite prospect that Bulldogs pried away. Beck was once a Gators commitment, but in baseball. Later, he would commit to Alabama for football before flipping to Georgia this past summer.
When Beck didn’t pick up where he left off last year, the criticism came hard and fast. He was overrated, they said. He’s a stiff.
There was one meeting about it between coach and player. Beck was encouraged to turn off all social media and concentrate only on what was in front of him each day. The difference was stark.
“I think this year may have gotten him more ready than anything he did the year before,” Ramsay said. “He was a victim of what he did last year, almost. But he handled it well. He learned to tune out all the noise, all the criticism.
“I told him, ‘everybody but Georgia fans doesn’t like you. And throw two interceptions in one game there, and they won’t like you either.’”
Fromm can attest to that. The numbers of the Bulldogs’ current quarterback suffered greatly in the wake of lost offensive weapons and injuries.
Now, the hope is the two quarterbacks will tutor together. The question as to whether Fromm will return for his senior season is hotly debated as his NFL stock has remained high. Regardless, Beck will at the very least have these next two weeks to play protégé to a quarterback who already has done almost everything he aspires to do.
“I think he’s a No. 1 draft pick, potentially. I really believe that,” Ramsay said. “He has to stay healthy and no one is immune to a bad decision. But he has everything a quarterback needs to succeed.”
Most important, perhaps, a thick skin.
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