Former Virginia starting quarterback Greyson Lambert’s confirmation Wednesday that he is going to join the Bulldogs as a graduate transfer eligible to play the 2015 season brought the UGA roster up to four scholarship QBs — the number Mark Richt said recently that he’s most comfortable having.
It might not remain that way, however.
And I have a hunch that’s what this is all really about.
Some have expressed puzzlement at Richt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s interest in adding yet another quarterback to the mix when they’ve got an unfinished QB battle on their hands between the three already in Athens. Couldn’t that upset the team chemistry at best, or be seen as an indictment of the talent already on hand? Especially when you consider Lambert wasn’t exactly a worldbeater for the Cavaliers and, in fact, moved to No. 2 on the UVA depth chart this spring after starting nine games last season.
At the heart of the matter, though, is the likelihood that at least one of the three QBs Georgia already has may have been thinking about transferring elsewhere even before Lambert was added to the equation.
Given the speculation in Athens last week that the coaches already have concluded Brice Ramsey is going to be the starter unless someone wrests the job away from him in August— and with the nation’s top QB prospect, Jacob Eason, due in town a year from now — it would only be natural for current backup Faton Bauta or third-stringer Jacob Park to be thinking it might be time to look elsewhere. And Richt and Schottenheimer don’t want to wind up just two injuries away from having to draft someone like defensive back Dominick Sanders, a sometime QB in high school, to take snaps as a backup.
“You’re talking to a guy that’s played the last two years in the NFC West with two and three different quarterbacks a year,” Schottenheimer told reporters Wednesday when talking about the need for quarterback depth. “Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the process.”
Plus, he noted, it never hurts to up the competition at a position. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s quarterback, it doesn’t matter whether it’s offensive line. We’re trying to create competition. We think that leads to guys raising their level of play, guys raising the standards. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Thus, Richt and Schottenheimer’s interest in signing Lambert, who will be given the opportunity like everyone else to compete for the starting job but, realistically, seems more likely to simply provide depth at a position where Georgia is thin.
Yes, Lambert has a strong arm and good size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds), he’s obviously smart (graduated from Virginia with two years of eligibility remaining) and he will arrive in Athens as the (by far) most experienced quarterback on the team.
But he has to learn a new playbook and his decisionmaking (he threw more interceptions than TDs last year) is open to question, so there’s a good chance that, at least to start with, he’ll simply push Park another notch down on the depth chart while Ramsey and Bauta remain Nos. 1 and 2. (That’s why many see Park as the QB most likely to be thinking about going elsewhere at this point.)
Of course, it could turn out that Lambert’s problems last season had more to do with Virginia’s poor offensive line and lack of much of a running game than with his own deficiencies. Behind Georgia’s OL and with Nick Chubb beside him, he might look like a brand new QB. Besides, he won’t be the only quarterback on the team subject to ill-advised throws: That’s the knock on presumptive starter Ramsey.
Even if Lambert the Bulldog proves no more capable than Lambert the Cavalier, well, if Georgia wound up having to go to its third-string QB in a pinch (as happened, for example, to Ohio State last year), the coaching staff no doubt would rather have someone with real-game experience as opposed to a redshirt-freshman who’s only ever run the scout team.
As I wrote last Saturday in answering a Junkyard Mail question about why Georgia would be interested in another QB, it’s all about insurance. Even if the Dawgs don’t lose a QB to transfer before this season, it’s a pretty good bet they’ll lose at least one, if not two, before next season. Bauta already has graduated from UGA, so, like Lambert, he could choose to go elsewhere and play right away, either this season or next. And, while Park would have to sit out a year somewhere as a transfer, he’d still have four years of eligibility if he leaves now, three after this season.
As I said in the earlier Blawg, Park is probably the one most likely to go. I think Bauta will stay, at least for this season, battling with Ramsey in August for the starter’s job. But if Ramsey does remain the starter, I’d expect Bauta to play his senior year elsewhere. And, if that proves to be the case, Lambert, with his experience, could help provide a bridge to the next QB era at UGA by being Ramsey’s backup until Eason is ready to start (whether that’s after a redshirt year or part-way through his freshman season).
UPDATE: Park did indeed announce via social media Tuesday, almost a week after I first wrote this blog, that he is leaving the Bulldogs. However, Wednesday the situation appeared to be subject to change.
That’s why adding another quarterback to the mix in Athens makes sense and is a smart move by Richt and Schottenheimer.
So what do you think of Park leaving? Feel free to share your thoughts on that or anything else concerning UGA athletics (or send me a question you want me to tackle) by emailing me at email@example.com.
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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.