Georgia played its first spring scrimmage Saturday. Mark Richt had indicated he would not be releasing any stats from it, prompting speculation he didn’t want to provide fuel for everyone second-guessing him on the quarterback situation. In the end, Richt decided to release QB stats after all. Of course, even if he hadn’t, that wouldn’t stop fans from giving him advice, so let’s proceed to talk quarterbacks to kick off this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Matt Miller writes: Here’s my question as far as our QB situation. We have done the best with playing a guy with potential as a freshman and letting him develop: David Greene, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray. These one- or two-year guys just pass time between the next great quarterback. My question is, with us having (at this time) the number one quarterback prospect, Jacob Eason, what do we do with looking ahead to the 2016 season? Do you try to develop [Brice] Ramsey in one year and redshirt Eason? What about this [Jacob] Park kid? Your take?
Along the same lines, Brad Masters writes: Bill, on paper Jacob Eason looks like the best QB prospect Georgia’s had since Matt Stafford. A program is lucky to get a talent like him at that position once or twice a decade. He’s been a UGA commitment since last summer, but with the loss of Mike Bobo everyone is wondering if that commitment is still as solid as he and his dad are saying it is. Michigan is recruiting him hard. Do you think, to seal the deal, Mark Richt needs to promise the kid he’ll play, if not start, as a true freshman? I know Richt generally likes to give his QBs a redshirt year to learn the system, but Eason and his dad may be looking ahead to the NFL and might not want to delay that another year. What do you think Georgia should do? And, if they give the job to Eason, what happens with the QBs they already have? Might we see a flood of transfers?
A couple of points: First, in college football, I think it’s never wise for fans to count a commitment as a sure thing until the player has signed something binding. So far, Eason appears to still be thinking UGA, despite the departure of Bobo. The Lake Stevens, Wash., prospect’s dad told the AJC’s Michael Carvell that, despite Bobo being their main contact “when we visited UGA’s campus last summer and looked around … it wasn’t just one guy that got Jacob to commit there. It was the whole package that got him to commit to UGA. … We’re all-in with UGA. Go Dawgs.” He has offers from a lot of other schools — most recently UCLA and Nebraska — and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is trying his best to woo Eason away from Georgia. Eason reportedly will make his first visit to Athens since last summer in April, and if he reconfirms publicly his commitment to UGA at that time, things will be looking pretty good. But don’t count him on the roster until he signs.
Secondly, as the Ohio State example this past season proved yet again, you never know when you’re going to have to go three-deep for a starting quarterback. Hopefully, the QBs Georgia already has would stick around. But it would not be all that surprising for at least one of them to look elsewhere for playing time even before Eason takes up residence in Athens (again, assuming he does).
As for what promises should or shouldn’t be made to land Eason, I don’t think it’s very likely that Richt would guarantee a starting position to any high school prospect. But if Eason and his father make it clear that he wants to play as a true freshman, I imagine he’ll get the chance to compete for playing time. Still, Richt generally seems to prefer giving his quarterbacks a redshirt year to get stronger and learn the playbook, though he didn’t really have that luxury with Stafford. And, let’s not forget, Stafford had some rough times that first year.
Bottom line: I don’t think you can have too many quarterbacks, and if Eason does sign with Georgia, I think he’ll have to earn the starter’s spot, rather than having it handed to him.
In the meantime, for those in search of some spring Dawg Porn, here’s a rundown on why 247Sports has Eason ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2016 recruiting cycle. Short version for those who don’t want to click through: He’s an elite arm talent, he has size (6-foot-5, 205 pounds), he’s mobile enough to escape pressure, he’s not gunshy under pressure, and he looks like NFL material. As 247 put it: “the Bulldogs are chasing an elusive National Championship (none since 1980) and you can see the pieces to their program talent-wise coming into place in other areas (like defense under coordinator and ace recruiter/evaluator Jeremy Pruitt). Having a guy with this much talent as your future signal caller is a huge piece to the puzzle moving forward for UGA.”
While on the subject of QBs, in the comments on my Blawg from this past week about the quarterback competition for the upcoming season, Rafe Hollister (someone’s a Mayberry fan!) writes: I know Richt hates, just hates, QB controversies and two QB systems, but he would make his life much easier and maybe UGA better, if he played the two best for a short while and let them separate themselves. As you said, Bill, practice and games are two different worlds. Some guys look all-world in practice and fold under the pressure of the game. Give them both a shot in the first game and see which one shines the most. Then, don’t just forget the guy you didn’t select, give him a series or two in every game, because, as we learned last year, we just skated by with Murray and Stafford avoiding injuries. Look at other programs like Ohio State, where they went through three QB’s last year. That could happen to us. Hope it doesn’t, but you are short sighted if you don’t make plans.
You’re preaching to the choir, Rafe. I understand that they want to keep the guy they think gives them the best shot at winning in the game, especially when it’s close, but I still thought Richt and Bobo should have given Ramsey more meaningful playing time last season. And, when Hutson Mason was faltering a bit at midseason, they apparently were coming around to that idea. Then Mason stepped his game up and that was pretty much it until he got hurt in the bowl game and they were forced to put Ramsey in. So, yeah, I think no matter who winds up being the starter this season, it would be wise for the No. 2 quarterback to get some scripted playing time on a regular basis. But, with the David Greene-D.J. Shockley situation apparently being an aberration during the Richt years, I don’t really expect that to happen, unfortunately.
Sand Dawg writes: Bill, looks like we’re again going to have a G-Day Game where a bunch of talent is missing, now that we’ve heard Sony Michel will miss the rest of the spring after reinjuring his shoulder and Keith Marshall apparently has a hurt hamstring. So, I guess we’ll see Nick Chubb for a quarter or two and then it’ll be Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman. And we’ll just have to hope that Michel and Marshall can get back on track in August. Which brings up again a question I’ve seen raised before about protecting key players in practice. Why don’t they do that?
As I noted when this issue was broached back in January, Richt has gone back and forth on that question over the years. During the 2008 season, Georgia had so many injuries that Richt decided not to tackle as much in practice. And then he regretted it. Same thing came up again in 2009 and 2010. Midway through that latter season he decided to just go for it in practice, and he concluded it made his team more sound fundamentally and more physical. That’s what it comes down to: During the seasons when he’s cut back on the hitting in practice to protect his starters, the play of the team in the games that count has tended to fall off. Injuries are just a part of the game you have to deal with. If you train everyone hard and someone goes down, the guy who has to step into his place should be better prepared. So, no, I don’t think wrapping your stars in bubblewrap in practice is the way to go.
Speaking of G-Day, a couple of readers want to know why the scheduling of the spring intrasquad game has moved back into conflict with Masters Week after a couple of years of avoiding it. Joseph in Kennesaw writes: Hey Bill, Why do they keep scheduling the spring game during Masters weekend? I wish they would schedule it either before Masters weekend or after Masters weekend. I bet they would have much higher attendance at the spring game if they would work around the Masters tournament schedule. What do you think?
Athletic Director Greg McGarity had noted a couple of years ago that he would like to avoid a conflict with the Masters if possible, but scheduling complications don’t always allow that. Some years, spring practice has been interrupted by UGA’s spring break, which is something else they like to avoid. Here’s how Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton explained this year: “Spring practice is somewhat driven by when the university spring break takes place. They started the second day after students got back and go four weeks.” That means the Saturday for the G-Day game falls on April 11.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.