Fall camp opened on Monday for the Georgia Bulldogs and new head coach Kirby Smart still doesn’t know who will start at quarterback for Georgia’s season opener against North Carolina next month.
Fans, of course, are clamoring for 5-star recruit and true freshman Jacob Eason to take the job and never look back. His competition—senior Greyson Lambert and junior Brice Ramsey—will have every opportunity to win the job, too.
As Smart noted after Georgia’s first practice, fans won’t be impacting his decision on who will begin the season under center.
“Do the fans impact my decision?” Smart said, via Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald. “Absolutely not. They can go out there and cheer and scream for him but I’ve got to make the best decision for this team.”
This is Smart’s first head-coaching gig and it just happens to be at his alma mater. He will not rush a decision just because it’s the popular one amongst fans. Picking the wrong guy right out of camp could not only undermine Smart’s credibility with his team, but also potentially cost Eason if he isn’t ready.
Lambert started all but one game in 2015. He had some good moments, namely his performance against South Carolina where he completed an NCAA-record 24 of 25 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
However, there wasn’t enough of those performances.
In three other starts, Lambert completed less than 50 percent of his passes—two of which were losses. In the bowl win over Penn State, Lambert completed just 10 of 20 passes for 115 yards and a score.
Lambert’s backers will likely point to his experience and lack of turnovers as the primary reasons he should start. He had just two interceptions and none in UGa’s final five games. Lambert also finished with a 10-2 record as Georgia’s starting quarterback.
Unfortunately, though, Lambert’s lack of aggression downfield often drew the ire of Georgia fans. Big plays were open and Lambert would often decide to play it safe and check down to the running backs or tight ends. This played a big part in the Bulldogs’ struggles on offense last fall.
Ramsey could be the player to watch. Lost in the hoopla surrounding Eason and Lambert’s experience, lies Ramsey.
A 6’3”, 205-pound junior, Ramsey was the presumed favorite going into last fall. However, Lambert won the job and Ramsey attempted just 35 passes on the season. He did, however, end last fall as Georgia’s primary punter, a job he could once again have in 2016.
Ramsey presents an interesting case to start. He has a big arm and displayed an ability to run UGa’s offense with precision in the spring game. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 224 yards in the G-Day festivities. Ramsey is an underrated athlete, too.
All three quarterbacks will get every chance to start. Eason is no exception. He wowed fans—and coaches—with his performance this spring. An early enrollee, Eason, came in, learned the playbook and impressed his teammates with his commitment in the weight room.
Impressing veteran teammates is never easy, especially when you’re a high-profile newcomer. Eason gets it, though. No moment is too big for the freshman from Lake Stevens, Wash., and the son of former Notre Dame wide receiver Tony Eason—not to be confused with the former NFL passer of the same name.
Junior offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn is among those impressed with Eason.
“He’s just walking into a whole different environment than you’re used to,” Wynn said. “Of course, it takes time to earn people’s respect. He’s a guy that gets it.”
Whichever quarterback opens the season will have star running back Nick Chubb in the backfield. In addition to Chubb, another celebrated junior running back, Sony Michel, is also back. Michel rushed for over 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns after stepping in for Chubb last fall.
First play of the game against UNC? Jacob Eason handing off to Nick Chubb. [Bookmarks this tweet] pic.twitter.com/krOXcyuRFe— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) August 1, 2016
So, does Smart want to play it safe, ride with Lambert and rely on his talented running backs?
Or will he go for the most upside and choose the most talented passer on his roster in Eason?
Regardless of who wins the job in fall camp, you can probably expect to see Eason at some point in 2016.
As Smart noted on Monday, fans may like Eason the most right now, but ultimately they’ll like the guy winning games the most. And it’s up to Smart to make that determination.