ATHENS — It’s usually a big deal when Kirby Smart makes his trust in a quarterback publicly known.
The Georgia head coach did that on Saturday when he announced that Carson Beck was the team’s starting quarterback.
Smart didn’t have to do it. He wasn’t even asked if Beck was the starter or would be. But the Georgia head coach felt the need to make it known that the junior quarterback would be starting for Georgia against UT-Martin.
“Carson is ahead of the other guys in terms of what he understands about the offense,” Smart said. “I’ll be honest with you: I was really impressed with the other two quarterbacks throughout camp how far they’ve come in terms of improvement. Coach Bobo has done a great job with those guys, and they both made a lot of plays with their feet and done some good things. Carson’s been in this offense for a year over one of them and two years over Gunner. He’s just ahead, so he’ll be our starting quarterback.”
Smart has reiterated time and time again that he believes in all three quarterbacks. Multiple players on the team have said that as well.
So for that to be a team belief and Smart to still come out and publicly name Beck as QB1 for Georgia says a good bit about the belief in what Beck brings to the table.
Smart praised Beck’s mental approach multiple times during Saturday’s press conference. For as much talk about arm strength and the ability to make all the throws, it was Beck’s brain that helped him win the job.
“Carson is very knowledgeable, very intelligent, one of the smartest quarterbacks I’ve been around when it comes to handling the volume of offense we want him to do,” Smart said.
From an outside perspective, Saturday’s announcement seemed like fait accompli following Georgia’s spring game. Beck clearly played the best, completing 13 of his 18 pass attempts for 210 yards.
Beck has always played well in spring games though. He did so in 2021, which was enough to earn him the backup quarterback job.
But Beck couldn’t hold that job when JT Daniels went down, and Georgia turned to the veteran Stetson Bennett to start against UAB. That week proved to be a turning point in Bennett’s career.
It may prove to be in Beck’s as well. The Georgia quarterback could’ve pouted, sulked and transferred after Smart’s previous decision.
Beck, to his credit, kept working. Kept getting better. Stayed with the program. Those efforts showed up last year, when Beck impressed in mop duty. He completed 26 of his 35 pass attempts for 310 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also didn’t throw any interceptions. Preventing turnovers will go a long way in Beck keeping the job.
Playing quarterback at a place like Georgia isn’t easy. Bennett understood that as well as anyone. Beck does as well. There’s tremendous upside pair with unfathomable levels of scrutiny.
That’s part of the reason why Smart went out and named Beck the start. Doing so inspires confidence. That could help Beck elevate his game to a necessary level.
Smart though also understands the need to keep Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton in the fold. Beck is living proof of that value. Quarterback depth is something Georgia hasn’t always had under Smart.
That proved problematic in 2019 and 2020. Smart wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“They both have made plays, they’ve made plays with their feet and they’ve made good checks,” Smart said of Vandagriff and Stockton. “They’ve made mistakes and they’ve made good decisions. I have complete confidence we can win football games with both those guys. Carson is just ahead of them right now.”
Smart wants the best out of all three quarterbacks. He’s cycled through enough quarterbacks to know the value of having multiple quarterbacks at the ready.
He also understands the value of establishing a belief in a quarterback. Following Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the 2021 SEC Championship, Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken could’ve wavered on Bennett and inserted JT Daniels.
But they stuck with Bennett. And the Georgia quarterback came out and delivered the best performance of his career to that point against Michigan in the College Football Playoff. Then Bennett followed it up by beating Alabama and leading Georgia to a national championship.
Smart and the Georgia coaching staff are hoping that the same level of confidence can power Beck to do the same.