ATHENS -- When a coach like Nick Saban shows up at Wayne County in Jesup, it’s as if a rock star has arrived.
So when Saban flew in to offer his recruiting pitch to quarterback Greyson Lambert, the south Georgia town was abuzz about one of the most prolific coaches in college football history being on campus.
Lambert, to some degree, grew up an Alabama fan. He has family roots from the state. But even with an offer from the Crimson Tide, he ultimately chose to play for Virginia out of high school. With his first stop not working out in his favor, Lambert wound up on Georgia’s campus last July 13 and went go on to take the starting job for the 2015 season.
With the Bulldogs hosting Alabama in what would appear to be the biggest game of Lambert’s college career so far, he’ll get a chance to go against the head coach guy who once showed up to his high school to woo him to the Crimson Tide.
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Alabama may be a team with a loss, but a Saban-coached Alabama team still carries a ton of cache. Lambert, who did play at Florida State last year, has game experience against top-notch competition. But the stakes have never been higher, given Georgia is a top-10 team looking to remain unbeaten.
Lambert’s high school head coach at Wayne County, Jody Grooms, said Lambert never shied away from big games.
“Greyson always wanted more,” Grooms said. “He wanted more film, he wanted more reps, wanted to throw more balls. He always wanted more. He was never satisfied with what we were doing or with what we had in the package. He just always wanted to try and find an advantage or an angle. He took them with him to Virginia and he’s obviously taken them with him down to Georgia. It seems like the game has slowed down for him.”
Georgia head coach Mark Richt elected not to make Lambert available for interviews this week.
It’s easy to conclude the coaching staff wants to shield Lambert from the surrounding “outside noise,” as players refer to it as.
Asked about Lambert’s approach this week, Richt said he’s been pleased with where his mind is at.
“He’s had good focus, staying on top of it in meetings,” Richt said. “I sit in on almost every meeting. He’s very attentive and always taking good notes. You see it go from the meeting room to the practice field, as far as knowing what to do and making the right calls. Certainly not perfect but you can tell he’s locked in, and you appreciate that.”
This week, the stage is bigger than the previous four games.
At Alabama, Saban has won three national championships. He won his first national championship in 2003 as the head coach of LSU.
Alabama boasts one of the top defenses in the country, which has held teams to 267 total yards per game.
So the question remains: can Lambert handle a game of this magnitude?
His teammates seem to think so.
“We’ve always been confident in him,” tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “We’ve always known what to expect. We’ve seen it every day. Thankfully we’ve been able to put it all together on game day.”
“When he talks in the huddle, everyone shuts up and listens to him,” right guard Greg Pyke said. “He’s become the leader the offense needs.”
After starting 0-of-7 against Vanderbilt in Week 2, a game which was scrutinized heavily, Lambert has gone 44-of-49 for 592 yards and five touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this year.
Grooms knew Lambert as a gamer, someone who was always well-prepared for the biggest moments.
Soon enough, Lambert will have his time on Saturday’s grand stage at Sanford Stadium and a national TV audience.
“He’s happier now than he has been in a long time and that’s what matters to us,” Grooms said.