Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart shares progress of team in week 3 of spring practice
From an outsider’s eye, all of Georgia’s quarterback drills look like mirroring images from day-to-day. There are two signal callers that lineup side-by-side and take shotgun snaps in black uniforms.
That was the only visible sign in Saturday’s eight-minute media availability at Sanford Stadium before Georgia’s first spring scrimmage. An underlying factor, however, is depth and that presents a sense of relief to head coach Kirby Smart.
No longer is it a two-man show in terms of scholarship quarterbacks leading the unit. Georgia’s got another horse in the back (yes, that reference, and Lil Nas X has suddenly made his way into sports). Along with the presumed starter in junior Jake Fromm, the Bulldogs welcomed Stetson Bennett (who returned after a season in junior college) and freshman D’Wan Mathis into the fold.
After the media bolted through the stadium’s exit gates, that depth was put on display in the actual scrimmage. Fromm had his usual load of reps, then Bennett had work with the first-and-second team offenses while Mathis split with the second-and-third teams. Georgia once entrusted walk-on Matthew Downing with the third-string duties, but Mathis gives a third viable and somewhat-trustworthy option.
“I thought D’Wan did some good things with his feet,” Smart said after Georgia concluded its scrimmage Saturday afternoon. “He was able to break contain and move around a little bit. He got better today, but has some improving to do.”
Smart was rather apprehensive on a follow-up as to where Mathis needed to improve. He didn’t want reporters to write negatively about the newcomer or for Mathis to receive too much praise to the point of being deemed “starter” by the media. That’s because Mathis is recently out of high school as an early enrollee.
Therefore, Georgia’s offensive coaching staff simplified the playbook in order for Mathis to have the most success. As Smart put it, he doesn’t have the “same menu” as Fromm does.
“I have no expectation that he’s going to conquer the verbiage and the words that we use by scrimmage one,” Smart said. “Every quarterback has to get better, and D’Wan has a lot of (room for) growth because he hasn’t been here to do the work. I am pleased where he is right now, but has a long way to go.”
While Mathis is brand new to the collegiate game, Bennett has been in the Bulldogs’ system before. Bennett transferred from the program after his freshman season because he didn’t think there was a playing opportunity. After a season at Jones County Community College and set to sign with Louisiana, he received a call on early signing day from Smart and quarterbacks’ coach James Coley with a scholarship offer.
Bennett spent most of his first season on scout team when Jim Chaney was the offensive coordinator, but he has a solid grasp on the offensive concept and doesn’t see too many differences. So, while he’s competing for a backup spot of his own, Bennett can also serve as a teacher.
“It’s different coach signaling, but there’s not really much different,” he said. “When I was here, I was doing a lot of scout team but knew the offense. It was really similar.”
Georgia’s biggest sense of relief comes from the guy with the most-valuable scholarship. Fromm leads the Bulldogs’ quarterback room and can allow the team’s depth to flourish.
“I’m in the role of a slight mentor,” Fromm said. “I teach those guys things I’ve learned from experience — how to communicate and learn as far as the playbook. There are a lot of things being thrown at them, and I’m a shoulder to lean on sometimes.”