We have until Sept. 2, when the Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks will enter Sanford Stadium, to discuss/dissect Georgia’s quarterback situation. The names change, but the topic never does. Indeed, it deserves an acronym – GQS – unto itself. (The NFL has OTAs, does it not?)
This year’s names: Carson Beck, who came close to being QB1 in September 2021; Brock Vandagriff, who might or might not be bound for the transfer portal, and Gunner Stockton, seen as the third man in a two-man race, unless one of the others gets dinged or leaves, which – this being college football – can and does happen.
Coming off G-Day, the job seems Beck’s to lose. (He completed 15 of 22 passes for 231 yards.) But this, we say again, is college football and, more to the point, this is Georgia. Here’s what we know about the GQS under Kirby Paul Smart (KPS).
· In seven seasons under KPS, the Game 1 starter has held the job through season’s end three times. Jake Fromm did it in 2018 and 2019; Stetson Bennett did it last year.
· Under KPS, UGA has had six QB1s. Greyson Lambert started Game 1 of Year 1, which was 2016. Jacob Eason took the job in Week 3, holding it throughout Game 1 of the next year, whereupon he got dinged on the third series. Fromm started the next 42 games. D’Wan Mathis started the 2020 opener but yielded to Bennett by halftime. Bennett got dinged in a loss to Florida. J.T. Daniels finished that season and opened the next as No. 1. Daniels got dinged in the opener against Clemson. He would start two more games but wasn’t quite right. Re-enter Bennett.
· Note to UGA QBs: Don’t get dinged.
· Entering the second game of the 2021 season, Beck was No. 2 on the depth chart. It was believed he’d start in Daniels’ stead against UAB. Having taken few snaps in preseason, Bennett had a legendary week of practice. Come Saturday, he started. He threw five touchdown passes in the first half.
· As a walk-on, Bennett made his reputation as the scout teamer who impersonated Heisman winner Baker Mayfield before the Rose Bowl. For all who say, “Practice doesn’t matter,” we offer Stetson Bennett IV as rebuttal. (SBIV is pretty much the rebuttal to everything.)
· Of the six starting QBs under KPS, five were or would become transfers. The exception is Fromm, who left for the NFL after his junior season and was drafted by Buffalo in Round 5. Bennett, you’ll recall, left to spend a year at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Miss. Being SBIV, he came back.
· A notable transfer who spent time, though not much, in Athens – Jamie Newman, who arrived via Wake Forest. It was believed the No. 1 job would be his in 2020, which became the COVID season. Just after Labor Day, Newman opted out, which spawned the Mathis/Bennett/Daniels . Newman has since become a pro QB. He started one game last season for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
· Only one UGA QB under KPS has established himself as an NFL starter – Justin Fields, now with the Bears. Fields didn’t start a game at UGA. You knew that already.
· To be fair, Fromm started two games for the Giants in 2021. They lost both. He spent last season on the Commanders’ practice squad.
· Fromm, whose last collegiate game came Jan. 1, 2020, is nine months younger than Bennett.
· Daniels has started at least one game in each of the past five seasons – 12 at USC, seven at UGA, 10 at West Virginia. He’s now at Rice. He completed 16 of 21 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns in the Owls’ spring game. This will be JTD’s sixth collegiate season. He’s two years and three months younger than Bennett.
· Many UGA fans felt Fields should have started over Fromm. Many believed Daniels/Beck/somebody should have started over Bennett. The Bulldogs have graced six College Football Playoff games. They’ve won five; in the sixth, they didn’t trail in regulation. Fromm started two. SBIV was MVP in the other four. Among all the other things we can say about SBIV, there’s also this: He’s a tough act to follow.
· UGA was 29-3 with Bennett as QB1. It was 35-7 with Fromm. It was 7-0 with Daniels. KPS’s team doesn’t lose often.
· The point being: As much impassioned debate as every GQS stirs, UGA seasons tend to end with somebody handing KPS a trophy. Is it possible the man knows what he’s doing?
The above is part of a regular exercise available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
How do you sign up? Go to the AJC.com home page. Click on “newsletters” at the top right. Click on “Sports Daily.” You’ll need to enter your email address. Thanks in advance, folks.
About the Author