Speaking to a UGA Days fan gathering Tuesday night in Savannah, head coach Mark Richt addressed the Dawgs’ quarterback battle, saying right now he has no idea who will end up as the starter.
Bulldawg Illustrated reports Richt said “nobody in my opinion has nailed it down” in the competition between Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park. “All three guys have a legitimate chance to be the starter. It will depend on what they do between now and fall camp and then on what they do in the camp. But they all have the talent base to get the job done.”
Since Georgia opens with Louisiana-Monroe and Vanderbilt, there’s been a lot of speculation that the QB battle might continue into the season, with at least two (probably Ramsey and Bauta) playing in those games.
Richt was asked at the fan gathering about the possibility of the Dawgs going with a two-quarterback system, as when he played both David Greene and D.J. Shockley.
“When David and D.J. were here together, I wouldn’t call it a true two-quarterback system,” the head coach said. “David took over the starting role but we did try to get D.J. in every ball game and that helped his development.
“But potentially,” Richt said, “we could get into something like that this year or we could get a guy to go in, grab hold of the job and kick tail.”
From what the feedback I get, UGA fans generally are divided over such a scenario.
While some cite the Greene-Shockley tandem as an example of how using two quarterbacks can work well, others recall fans’ frustration with how Shockley’s scripted series sometimes disrupted Greene’s rhythm and also resulted in turnovers (as in a killer interception returned for a Gator TD that the backup QB threw against Florida in 2002).
And there’s also the old football saying that goes something like this: “If you have two starting quarterbacks, you have no starting quarterback.” The arguments against platooning or rotating QBs include that it makes it tough for the starter to establish himself as a leader and, if one quarterback is a better passer and the other a better runner, the defense has a better idea of what to expect.
Sometimes, two-quarterback systems have seen success in the SEC, as when LSU’s Les Miles couldn’t make his mind up between Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson during the 2011 season. And though Will Muschamp had mixed results trying to rotate Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett at Florida, his predecessor won a BCS championship in 2006 with starter Chris Leak giving way to Tim Tebow generally in short-yardage situations. It didn’t work as well in 2010, when Urban Meyer rotated John Brantley, Trey Burton and Jordan Reed.
And Steve Spurrier has quite a history of going with two quarterbacks — with success at Florida, as in the case of Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise in 1997 (rotating them on just about every play against FSU), and less successfully at South Carolina with Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia.
Even if you don’t go with a true quarterback rotation, there are some benefits to at least scripting series for your backup QB, as Richt did with Shockley, because the more real-game experience your backup quarterback gets, the better off you’ll be if your starter goes down for some reason. As Richt mentioned, it also is a good way to ready a backup to eventually be a starter.
But, as I noted earlier, while Shockley went on to become a UGA hero when he finally became the starter in his senior season, the not-quite-but-sort-of dual quarterback system that Richt used during the time Shockley was backing up Greene didn’t work all that smoothly.
Initially there was some minor controversy among fans as to which QB should be starting, with a vocal minority lobbying for Shockley. Noises from the Shockley camp about him possibly transferring didn’t help. But Richt wisely stuck with Greene, though he continued to give Shockley regular playing time.
Once Greene was established, the tide in fan sentiment turned. I remember fans around me at Sanford Stadium complaining when Greene would be pulled according to Richt’s game script (usually for the third offensive series) to insert Shockley, frequently taking the momentum out of Georgia’s offense and disrupting Greene’s rhythm. It’s not like Greene wasn’t getting it done; it was simply Shockley’s turn.
The problem was that Shockley the backup wasn’t nearly the confident, proficient player that Shockley the starter later would be, and he often tried to do too much in his brief time in the game, resulting in errors like that dismal pick he threw against Florida.
At the same time, I’m sure Shockley’s performance in 2005 as the starter was due at least in part to the playing time he’d had as a backup.
And what about 2015? If the battle between current leaders Ramsey and Bauta is still neck-and-neck come the end of August, I think giving both quarterbacks meaningful playing time in the first game, and maybe even the first two games, sounds like a reasonable course of action. The running attack is likely to be the main generator of offense early on anyway.
But if neither quarterback has clearly taken hold of the starter’s job by the time Spurrier brings the Gamecocks to Athens for the third game of the season, that could spell trouble.
What do you think about the prospect of dual QBs, at least to start the season?
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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.