Kirby Smart isn’t tipping his hand whatsoever when it comes to Georgia’s starting quarterback position.
During an appearance over a week ago at the Macon Touchdown Club Spring Jamboree, Smart preemptively told the fans in the audience not to ask about the quarterback position. Why? He doesn’t know who will start.
It makes sense, considering Smart hasn’t been able to see either quarterback perform in person. Spring practice will be Smart’s first chance to see what he actually has available at the position on a first-hand basis.
At Alabama in 2015, he didn’t have to worry about the quarterback battle since he was the defensive coordinator. Now, it’s his responsibility to be the final voice in the conversation and he doesn’t want to put anything out there that could be seen as leaning one way or the other. He didn’t say anything other than, “I don’t know,” when asked on Friday if he had an idea for his quarterback rotation during spring practice.
Greyson Lambert, for rotational purposes, will likely be the first quarterback running with the ones to start the spring. Brice Ramsey and Jacob Eason are likely to fall in line behind him. From there, a competition will ensue, with the ideal scenario being that one quarterback emerges from the G-Day Game as the favorite to start the 2016 opener against North Carolina.
A lot of buzz has been built around Eason taking the reins and starting from day one. Smart has tried to dismiss that notion since he began receiving questions about the five-star player.
"Everybody’s expectation is, 'He’s going to start, he’s going to be the savior,'" Smart said in a recent appearance on radio station 680 The Fan. "We got two quarterbacks on our team competing for a job. He’s the third guy coming in to compete for the job. We want him to get better every day. I don’t want him to look at the end goal of did I start or not start. … Sure, there’s expectations from the fans. There’s expectations of me. I want the kid to grow and get better because that’s what he needs to do for his career. That’s what we sold him on in the process."
The reason behind the Eason hype is due to the inconsistencies Georgia got at the position last season. Lambert, who started 12 of Georgia’s 13 games, finished with 1,959 yards, 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
The positive out of that stat line is he protected the ball well, more so down the stretch after getting some lucky breaks against Vanderbilt and Missouri. The negative is that he was healthy for a whole season and didn’t crack the 2,000-yard barrier, despite the fact that Georgia ran its offense out of the no-huddle for the first eight games of the season.
Ramsey was long thought to be next-in-line at the position as Georgia recruited him hard from the onset. The Bulldogs weren’t the only major program after Ramsey, as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Mississippi and Ohio State all offered him a scholarship.
But Ramsey was beat out by Lambert last preseason and was unable to jump into a starter’s role during the Virginia transfer’s ups and downs. In Lambert’s lone non-start of the season against Florida, Faton Bauta, who has since transferred to Colorado State, got the nod.
With the coaching change, Ramsey figures to have another shot at the starting job, as a fresh set of eyes will be evaluating the three signal callers.
It’s too early to determine a favorite at the position, even if the fans unhappy with Georgia’s quarterback play in 2015 are clamoring for Eason to start immediately.
Sure, Eason very well could end up being Georgia’s starter against North Carolina. But the coaching staff has to first see how each individual performs in the new system it’s bringing in.
"We don’t want (Eason) coming in and thinking he’s got to win the job," Smart said. "There’s some other guys here too that played some football last year. We’ve got to find what the best remedy for our offense is. That’ll be very important in spring practice. To say that it all falls on Jacob, I don’t think that’s the case. I would rather take that burden myself."