Bulldogs Beat

Georgia’s next quarterback: three candidates, one job

ATHENS -- Hutson Mason spent more than a week hanging around his old Georgia football team, especially the quarterback room. And yes, he was as curious as everyone else.

Who is going to replace him as Georgia’s starting quarterback: Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta or Jacob Park?

Mason just sighed and shook his head.

“You know me, I’ll shoot it how it is. I’d tell you if I thought I knew,” he said. “But I don’t have a clue.”

All he could offer up was to say, “If it was (former offensive coordinator Mike) Bobo and his system here, I would say Brice. But with a whole new system here, it depends on who’s going to put the time and effort in and who can pick up the playbook.”

Georgia is now halfway through spring practice, and on Saturday, it held its first scrimmage. Judging by the statistics and head coach Mark Richt’s comments, it didn’t move the needle very much. Richt has said he doesn’t plan to name a starter after spring practice, and there’s no indication yet that he has changed his mind.

“There were flashes, by all of them,” Richt said. “And then there were still a couple of plays where you shake your head a little bit.”

Georgia doesn’t let the media view its scrimmages or much of its practices. Through those limited viewings, and interviews with players and coaches, the character of the competition has emerged.

Ramsey has the arm. Bauta has the intangibles. Park has the confidence.

Yet, it’s not quite broken down that simply. For instance, Park’s arm is getting raves, too, and teammates say Bauta’s throwing is underrated, as well. Ultimately, the expectation among the three is the job will be decided by who is the most consistent.

“I think it’s gonna come down to, at the end of the day, consistency,” Ramsey said. “I mean, right now we can’t tell who’s consistent. So we’re all just doing what we can.”

“An offense has to move the ball down the field. And if you can show a coach that you can move the ball most efficiently down the field, you can run his offense the best, I’m pretty sure that’s all he needs to see. I think everyone else is trying to show the same thing to him.”

Ramsey was Mason’s top backup last year, beating out Bauta in a competition judged mainly by Bobo, who is now Colorado State’s head coach. Now Brian Schottenheimer is overseeing the quarterbacks and offense, which is why it might be a bit more open.

Park, who redshirted as a freshman last year, joined the competition and injected a gunslinger, confident attitude. It’s what the upstate New Yorker did on scout team last year.

“People tend to follow people that get excited and want to play. I just came to scout team and told them, ‘We’re playing backyard football, why not have fun over here?’ ” Park said. “So we came out every day and had fun.”

Park, who moved to South Carolina in middle school, brought his fun attitude to the media room earlier this week.

“I don’t think anybody talks about the competition but you guys,” Park said Tuesday, during a media session in which the 20-year-old also referred to a 38-year-old reporter as “bro.”

Bauta is another native New Yorker -- he grew up in Brooklyn -- but differs in style. He has gained a reputation around the team as a leader, as well as being the most studious. Mason confirmed that he and Bauta were the two who usually had to be pulled out of the film room the past few years.

Safety Quincy Mauger also mentioned Bauta when asked to name a few of the team’s new leaders.

“Just his hard work. He shows hard work academically, on the field, when we’re working out. He gives us 100 percent,” Mauger said. “He’s always looking out for us. I know Faton loves every teammate the same way. He’s just a leader vocally, as well. Definitely, that’s why I count him as a leader.”

But can Bauta play? He’s the most mobile of the three quarterbacks and has good size (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) but the weakest arm. For what it’s worth, Bauta had the best numbers (17-for-30, 247 passing yards, two touchdowns, one interception) in Saturday’s scrimmage, although he was working with the second team and against the second-team defense, while Ramsey (16-for-32, 232 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) was with the first-teamers.

Park was with the third-teamers, completing 4-of-7 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. He hoisted up two long bombs, which seems to be his style.

“Oh he definitely has a cannon,” tight end Jay Rome said. “You can’t describe it any other way. Park has a cannon.”

Ramsey should still be regarded as the favorite, considering his experience. But the Maryland native, who moved to south Georgia for high school, realizes the heat is on.

“Obviously I know I’ve got two or three other guys gunning for my position,” Ramsey said. “Everybody’s trying to get it. You’ve just gotta come to work every day, you’ve just gotta prepare, and just try to win the day.”

It has been five years since Georgia has seen a true quarterback competition. Aaron Murray beat out Zach Mettenberger in the spring of 2010, then held the starting job for four years. Mason inherited it last year, his senior season.

Bauta was asked this week how he keeps from letting the competition consume him. He took a deep breath.

“The way I go about it personally is understanding that this job is not for everybody, and this kind of job that we have open here, a quarterback’s job, disturbs his mind, body and soul and disturbs his peace all the time. And how you handle that is up to the quarterback as an individual,” he said. “So I don’t care who you are, this is your life, this is what you do. If you want to live the quarterback life then you’ll live the quarterback life.

“It keeps you uneasy at all times. If you show it, I don’t think it’s good for you. But the guys who don’t show it, more power to you.”