ATHENS – There’s a long way to go until first game that counts, and spring practice isn’t over. When it comes to Georgia’s quarterback competition, however, some clarity is emerging.
Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta are in a close race for the first spot, while redshirt freshman Jacob Park trails both, at least for now.
The Bulldogs held their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday, and Ramsey and Bauta split first-team snaps and put up nearly identical stats. Park, on the other hand, only had a handful of pass attempts, just as in the first scrimmage.
Head coach Mark Richt has been careful not to acknowledge a pecking order, and he kept up the caution Saturday. He emphasized that “we’re not done rotating,” and the coaches are “still learning” what all three can do.
There is one more scrimmage, next Saturday’s G-Day, which every fan will be able to see. Through two scrimmages, which were closed to the media and public, the stats break down this way:
Ramsey: 33-60, 451 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Bauta: 34-58, 497, 4 TD, 2 INT
Park: 6-15, 223, 1 TD
While Park’s third-team status isn’t a major surprise given his inexperience, so far the spring is encouraging for Bauta’s chances, considering he was beaten out by Ramsey last season for the No. 2 role.
“I thought they both had some good moments and a couple bad moments again,” Richt said of Saturday’s scrimmage. “Faton was a little hotter on the front end, and Brice was a little hotter at the tail end of the scrimmage.”
Prior to the start of spring practice, Richt said he didn’t anticipate naming a starter before the summer, and based on how it looks now that seems even more unlikely. In fact, it’s plausible to see two quarterbacks seeing action in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.
Of course, if someone emerges as the clear starter, then it’s a different story. Ramsey, the third-year sophomore who has the most experience, was the clear favorite before spring began. But Bauta, the fourth-year junior, has closed the gap, possibly to a tie.
Bauta was always known as the most mobile quarterback on Georgia’s roster. But his passing and command of the offense have improved.
“From the day Faton has been here, I’ve always thought Faton really was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen on any level of any sport I’ve ever played,” tight end Jay Rome said. “I mean, Faton works hard, year-round, and I think it’s really paying off for him. I think the biggest thing is he’s just gaining more confidence in himself and in his arm.
“Some people might look at Faton as just a running guy in years past. But I think people are really underestimating how good of a pass-thrower that Faton is and how much of a pass-thrower that he’s become.”
What makes him a better passer?
“I really feel it’s his ability to find the open guy and really let it loose,” Rome said. “Not to be too flustered about somebody coming in. He’s stepping up in the pocket, he’s not looking to run first. He’s really finding the open guy, and he’s putting lasers on people.”
Ramsey, meanwhile, didn’t have an interception in Saturday’s scrimmage, which was his most encouraging sign. His arm strength has never been in question. The question is whether he can zip the ball to the right receiver.
“Last week, he threw more balls that could have been picked, in my opinion,” Richt said, adding later, “As the scrimmage was going on, I didn’t see a lot of bad decisions by the quarterbacks.”
And on a team with Nick Chubb and other talented running backs, simply making good decisions might be the most important barometer.
“We’ve been forcing the ball, trying to make the big-league throw down the middle, or the deeper (pass),” Richt said. “Sometimes your first progression is deep and you work your way short. And sometimes there’s a protection issue where you’ve got to cut the ball loose. This whole last week, we worked a lot harder on (making) sure you know who your check-downs are and be willing to take it.”