UGA fan talk: QB concerns, McGarity’s future, preseason rankings and more

Time to answer some of the latest Junkyard Mail …

Bill, looking ahead at the coming season I’m more than a little concerned about the quarterback position. I know we’re fine with Jake Fromm as the starter, but the lack of experience behind him on the depth chart, and the fact that his likely backup originally was a walk-on, really worries me.

— C.W. Ray

I agree that Georgia is in good shape with Fromm as the starter. As for the lack of experienced depth behind him, a couple of friends of mine recently were debating that issue.

Former scout team quarterback Stetson Bennett looked good in last year’s G-Day ;game. (Andy Harrison/UGA)

One of them said he was afraid an injury to Fromm could derail a great season. The other friend thinks Stetson Bennett, Fromm’s presumed backup for the coming season, could step in and Georgia still would win the SEC East.

Bennett is the former walk-on who left UGA last summer to go to junior college and, after one season at that level, returned to Georgia with a scholarship as a part of the 2019 recruiting class. He’s rather small (6 feet, under 200 pounds), but can run the 40-yard dash in the 4.5-to-4.6-second range.

Behind Bennett will be Dwan Mathis, the 4-star prospect that Georgia flipped from Ohio State. He reportedly is something of a dual threat and has good size (6-foot-6, 210-pounds), but is very raw and needs to learn the Dawgs’ offensive system.

Other than walk-ons, that’s it, since Georgia’s other QB prospect, John Rhys Plumlee, flipped his commitment from Georgia to the Ole Miss after he was asked by UGA to delay taking a scholarship (known as “blueshirting”).

Asked recently about the QB depth issue, head coach Kirby Smart said: “We are excited about the two young men that entered our program mid-year. We know a lot about Stetson, because he’s been in our program, he’s played in a spring game with 93,000 people at it. I have great expectations for him.”

As for Mathis, Smart said, “Dwan has been a kid who has been like a sponge. He’s getting here and has done great academically and we’re excited to see what he does this spring.”

Those who think Bennett will do fine as Fromm’s backup point out that he drew raves playing against the first-team defense in 2017 as the scout team quarterback, and he looked good during last year’s G-Day game before leaving UGA.

But, G-Day performances often don’t translate to success during real games, and my pessimistic friend worries that, if Bennett had to take over the starter’s job from an injured Fromm, Florida, Auburn and Texas A&M would just load the box to shut down Georgia’s running game, and force him to beat them.

Whether it was the undersized Bennett or green freshman Mathis, if something were to happen to Fromm, the drop-off in experience would be significant.

I’d actually like to see Georgia pick up a graduate transfer as a backup for the coming season. I know it’s doubtful that any top-of-the-line grad transfer would jump on board knowing he won’t play unless Fromm gets hurt, but even someone from, say, a midlevel ACC school who has playing experience would be a good insurance policy.

The problem is that it’s just about impossible to carry a top-notch backup QB on your roster these days unless they’re spaced out, class-wise, where it’s clearly the starter’s last season in that role. So, you can entice a 5-star freshman to back up a junior starter who clearly is going pro early, or a senior QB. Otherwise, no one wants to wait.

That’s why, for many, Justin Fields’ decision to sign with Georgia last year never made much sense. Fields obviously really thought he could beat out Fromm. But, from what we saw on the field, that wasn’t ever close to happening. 

One thing you can count on: Smart will be trying to sign a 5-star quarterback in the 2020 class.

Hey Bill, I’ve read some discussion recently about Greg McGarity’s contract as Georgia’s athletic director coming up for renewal in June and whether he’ll stick around (or even whether he should be asked to stick around). What do you think?

— Sean Pruitt

Will Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity be sticking around after June? (Kristin M. Bradshaw/UGA)

When I was over in Athens this week, I heard a rumor out of Butts-Mehre that McGarity will be gone after June, but I have no idea how reliable that is. 

Whether the fan base should want him to stay or go is a matter of some debate. McGarity has had an up-and-down career as Georgia’s athletic director.

There have been a lot of fan criticisms of him, some of them fair, and some not. He got a lot of flak for the four-game suspension of Todd Gurley, though I’m not sure he had any other choice there.

He has muffed the public relations side of the job on more than one occasion, most recently trying to support Tom Crean after the frustrated basketball coach groused that he shouldn’t have kept the players already at Georgia when he arrived. Even Crean thought better of that statement, apologizing later.

On the plus side, McGarity fired Mark Richt after a 9-3 regular season because it was clear Georgia football had hit a plateau, and he managed to get the replacement everyone wanted in Smart. Not all ADs would have pulled the trigger on that firing.

Otherwise, McGarity’s hiring record has been spotty. How things turn out with Crean remains to be seen, and, though baseball finally seems to have turned it around, that rather slow reclamation project isn’t quite yet complete. Meanwhile, UGA gymnastics, once the nation’s premier program, has floundered on McGarity’s watch, though there are hopeful signs there, too. The Olympic sports have continued to do fine, but soccer and volleyball are awful (though no one seems to care).

It’s also been off-putting to some fans that McGarity has put constant emphasis on getting the fan base to contribute more and more money, while seemingly dragging his feet on improving the game-day experience at Sanford Stadium.

There’s also the rather large question of who Georgia could get as a new AD.

Anyway, we may find out what’s happening with McGarity as early as this Wednesday, when the Athletic Board meets. If not, we’ll know one way or the other by mid-summer.

Hey Bill, I see Georgia already has slipped in ESPN’s updated preseason rankings, from No. 3 to No. 4, with Oklahoma jumping the Dawgs thanks to Jalen Hurts’ transfer. I’m worried that by the time the actual preseason rankings come out from AP and the coaches in August, the anti-Dawg bias at ESPN will have us slipping even farther. Should we be worried?

— Taylor Sanders

Kirby Smart returns, which is one of the pluses for UGA in ESPN’s FPI ranking. (Steven Colquitt/UGA)

First, I don’t think there’s any obvious anti-Dawg bias at ESPN. I recall on playoff decision day, several of their commentators arguing that Georgia should have been in the final four.

Also, ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 is called that for a reason — it’s way too early to be ranking schools for a season that doesn’t begin for another six and a half months.

If it makes you feel any better, ESPN has Georgia at No. 3 in its preseason football power index, or FPI, predictive rating and ranking system based largely on four factors: team performance over the past four seasons (with the most emphasis on the last season); returning starters, especially at quarterback; whether a team has a returning head coach; and recruiting rankings over the past four seasons. Georgia is in good shape on all those counts.

Bill, Am I wrong to be only half excited about a basketball player coming to UGA for one year? Maybe if we had five one-year starters (typically like Kentucky). I’m actually kind of disgusted with the whole system and what a joke it makes college education and the institutions. To have institutions of higher education recruit any kid who blatantly says will leave in one year is an oxymoron to the educational system. I am not naive concerning the business of college sports. But sometimes things grow so out of whack for the means to an end.  It becomes illogical. Sadly, we’ll all cheer whatever success the one-and-dones bring to our schools. But deep down, we all know it is wrong.

— Jim Parry

Signing players like UGA commitment Anthony Edwards, who likely won’t stick around more than a year, is the only way to compete with the Kentuckys and North Carolinas in today’s college basketball world. 

Sure, you might only have a player like that for one season, two at the most. But, the hope is that bringing in one of the top two players in the country will bring you enough success in the short term to attract more top-level talent in the future, so that you have long-term success. The rosters might change constantly year to year with that approach, but, if you’re regularly making it deep into the NCAA playoffs, that doesn’t seem to bother fans of programs where this model has been followed for some time.

The post UGA fan talk: QB concerns, McGarity’s future, preseason rankings and more appeared first on DawgNation.

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