Bulldogs Beat

Georgia's offense heads into summer of uncertainty

ATHENS – Mark Richt stretched out spring practice as long as he could. Five days after the spring game, after the final practice had officially ended, Richt lingered on the field, leading to an apology to the media for being late to his scheduled press conference.

“We were working on some QB-center exchange,” Richt said.

Considering the team still doesn’t know who its starters will be at either position, it seemed the perfect way to start the offseason.

In fact, Georgia’s offense, so prolific the past few years, finished the spring with uncertainty in many places: Quarterback, center, receiver, and how the unit will adjust to new offensive coordinator.

"There's a lot of moving parts right now, no doubt,” Richt said. I think once we hone it in to getting one unit ready to play, I think it'll all come together better.”

That’s the trick, however. The offense will revolve around tailback Nick Chubb, receiver Malcolm Mitchell and an otherwise experienced line. Everything else will still be a question when August begins.

“Not sure who the starting quarterback is and rotating guys around, it's hard to imagine having a ton of continuity right this second,” Richt said. “But as we get closer to it, we'll hone things down as far as game plan. We'll hone things down as far as who is getting reps, who we're going to count on. It'll come together."

While Richt continues not to tip his hand on a preference for quarterback – Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta appear to be co-favorites, ahead of Jacob Park – the coach does have a timetable for a decision:

By the team’s third and final scrimmage of August, which the team treats as its practice game.

“I’m hoping by then we’ll at least say who’s starting the first game,” Richt said. “We’ll just have to see.”

Those looking for signs might be interested that Ramsey was the quarterback who was working after practice on the snaps. Brandon Kublanow, last year’s starting left guard who is experimenting with a position switch, was the center.

Richt added that it was because Kublanow needs the extra work on his snapping, and that Ramsey had some exchange issues to work on as well.

In any case, the lack of an anointed starter creates a dilemma for the player’s summer workouts. In years past Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason, knowing they were the choice, organized offseason passing drills, and occasionally more.

So what about this summer?

“Well, we think that, I know that, Faton being the senior man in the group, I know he’s got the skills to do that,” Richt said of Bauta, who will be a redshirt junior this fall. “And I think Brice does, too. I’m not exactly sure how we’ll get that done, but that’ll be something we’ll discuss. More than likely, if there’s going to be any QB-led meetings, they’d probably rotate that.”

Tight end Jay Rome, speaking after Tuesday’s practice, said the uncertainty shouldn’t be a problem.

“We have a three-way battle for quarterback, and for past years I kind of knew who our quarterback was going to be,” he said. “I think the competition is good for the guys that are going through it, because it’s going to put pressure on them, for whoever does get the starting position. And we need some of that.”

As for the center spot, rising sophomore Isaiah Wynn got the first-team snaps in all three scrimmages. But Kublanow has been getting a heavy look there this week. Hunter Long, a fifth-year senior who was last year’s top backup, remains in the mix.

"We don’t know who the center’s going to be. That’s the question,” Richt said. “Kublanow’s capable. Isaiah Wynn is capable; I think Hunter Long is capable right now. Are they game ready right this second? Probably not.”

It’s yet another item on the summer and preseason to-do list, along with finding capable receivers other than Mitchell, and continuing to install Schottenheimer’s playbook. The unresolved issues don’t make the spring a failure; players said it was just the opposite.

It just means the preseason will be that much more interesting.