A real quarterback competition at Georgia

semerson@macon.comMarch 23, 2014 

ATHENS -- Faton Bauta swears it’s fun. Not traumatic or nerve-wracking. Not cut-throat. Fun.

“We know we’re competing against each other, but we try and understand that ‘Hey, we’re gonna help each other be the best we can be,’ which is the biggest thing we can do for the team,” Bauta said.

It’s a team that is seeing something this spring it hasn’t seen in some time.

There hasn’t been a real and important quarterback competition for four years on the Georgia football team. Not for starter. Not even for backup.

Now there is one, for the first time since Aaron Murray beat out fellow freshman Zach Mettenberger in the spring of 2010.

Murray went on to start the next 50 games, and his starting job was never in real jeopardy. Hutson Mason, who joined the team after Mettenberger’s dismissal the summer of 2010, has been the unquestioned No. 2 the past four years. Even when he redshirted in 2012, it was with the understanding that if Murray got hurt, Mason would go in.

The starting job is now essentially Mason’s. The coaches give lip service to the idea that someone could push Mason for the job, but that’s mostly to keep Mason, a fifth-year senior, on his toes.

“Hutson’s obviously ahead of everybody,” head coach Mark Richt said. “But we don’t want any position to think, ‘There’s no chance anyone can take my job’ or take playing time or whatever. So we’re telling everybody to compete for the starting job. We’re not saying, ‘Hey try to compete for the No. 2 job.’

“I’m not trying to cause a controversy at all, because Hutson is clearly in the lead. But it’s gonna be his job to keep it that way, and it’s gonna be the other guy’s job to try to close the gap.”

That said, the main competition is for that No. 2 job. It’s a vital one, because if someone can emerge this spring or summer, he would not only be in line this year if Mason got hurt and also have the lead for the job in 2015.

The Georgia coaches seem to be embracing the competition angle, both publicly and privately. Competition, after all, is good.

“Coach Bobo tells us every time, ‘Don’t judge your success off other people’s failures,’ ” Bauta said, referring to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. “There’s that fine line where you’ve gotta worry about what you’re doing and worry about what this team is doing. That’s what we understand best in our segment, is we only have to compete against each other, not knock each other at the same time.”

There are four scholarship quarterbacks at Georgia this spring: Mason, Bauta, Brice Ramsey and Jacob Park. Realistically the No. 2 battle is between Bauta and Ramsey, since Park just enrolled and is still learning the playbook.

Ramsey and Bauta are both 6-foot-3, but otherwise offer an interesting contrast. Ramsey is the more traditional pocket passer, seemingly a better fit for Georgia’s pro style offense. But while Bauta is known for his mobility, he resists the idea that he’s all that different.

“I consider myself a pocket guy. I don’t consider myself a guy that has to run around all the time,” Bauta said. “I think I’m most definitely capable of running this offense, no question. But whether I do it well or not, that’s up to Coach. But no doubt in my mind I could run this offense, pro style or spread, whatever. Just whatever Coach wants me to do, I’ll do it.”

If Bauta didn’t consider himself a pocket passer, he wouldn’t have gone to Georgia.

“Exactly,” Bauta said.

Mason was asked Saturday to assess the competition behind him. He thought a second then gave his scouting reports.

“Brice has got a world of potential as far as how live his arm is,” he said. “We all know how athletic Faton is and the intangibles as far as just how live his arm is. We all know how athletic Faton is and the intangibles he has. He’s so different than really any other Georgia quarterback we’ve had in a long time, as far as his athletic ability. So he kind of brings that intangible ability to the game. And Park’s head is just swimming right now.”

Ramsey, who is not available to the media this spring, appears to be slightly behind Bauta entering the spring. Much of that is because of experience, such as it is. Bauta got some playing time as a redshirt freshman last year and was the No. 2 quarterback after Murray’s injury. Ramsey spent the year redshirting and learning the playbook, just as Bauta did in 2012.

Soon, however, Ramsey will be caught up with Bauta in his knowledge of the playbook. Then it becomes about their abilities and performance in practice and scrimmage.

But Bauta is holding true to what Richt said about competition. He’s not looking over his shoulder at Ramsey. He’s looking ahead at Mason.

“I’m trying to beat Hutson. I’m trying to be better than him,” Bauta said. “But like I said, I’m not gonna get lost along the way and just make him my enemy. We’re still gonna help each other out.”

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