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Georgia quarterback Gunner Stockton (14) during Georgia’s G-Day spring scrimmage on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 16, 2022. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Gunner Stockton becomes more pivotal figure in future of Georgia football quarterback room

Georgia recently missed out on the services of Arch Manning, who passed on the Bulldogs in favor of the Texas Longhorns. Given his last name and 5-star ranking, his recruitment was as star-studded as they come.

The hoopla surrounding Manning runs pretty much counter to everything Georgia’s 2022 quarterback signee did. Gunner Stockton was so low-profile in his recruitment that there was never much attention paid to the 4-star quarterback following his pledge to Georgia in January of 2021. Even if he was etching his name in the Georgia high school record books alongside Trevor Lawrence and DeShaun Watson.

Related: Gunner Stockton: The big ‘little thing’ he does while hunting down all-time state passing records

After a record-breaking career at Rabun County High School, Stockton quietly went about his business during spring practice for Georgia. He threw just three pass attempts in Georgia’s spring game, as he soaked up reps behind Stetson Bennett, Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff.

That isn’t all that surprising given the development of first-year quarterbacks Todd Monken. Beck didn’t attempt a single pass during the 2020 season, while Vandagriff threw just one pass during this past season. Georgia clearly wants its freshmen quarterbacks to learn the complexities of the offense and college game, as opposed to just rushing them out there.

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart recently said in an interview with Crain & Company though that Stockton showed some promise during spring practice. It was a positive first spring for Stockton as he makes the transition to the college level.

The important next step will be continued development for Stockton, even if he is behind more experienced options on the depth chart.

“We want to see them develop. We want to see them get ready to play,” Smart said of his quarterbacks. “You don’t ever know when your number’s going to be called at quarterback. We’ve seen that here really over the last three or four years because we’ve seen a different quarterback emerge from maybe who the season starter was a couple times. So, I’m excited about those guys. They’ve got great ability.”

Stockton will have to make some adjustments to the college game, especially from a physicality standpoint. He was often the most gifted player whenever he stepped on the field in high school. That will no longer be the case, especially with his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame. While his highlights display a physical running style for a quarterback, Cam Newton he is not.

The one area in regards to Stockton that seems to be the surest is his mental make-up. From the moment he signed with Georgia, Smart praised Stockton for his mental approach and how he goes about handling things.

The lights and allures of college football won’t be too bright for Stockton because of how he carries himself.

“Tremendous athlete, tremendous character, I don’t know you could raise a finer young man in today’s day and age of all the attention-seeking people,” Smart said of Stockton in February. “He’s never done that. He’s stuck to his guns that he loves UGA. He wants to be here, and certainly, a major part of our class.”

Related: Georgia football winners and losers following Arch Manning commitment to Texas

There’s a lot of uncertainty around the future of the quarterback position at Georgia. The Bulldogs don’t have many options to turn to in the 2023 recruiting cycle, with just four of the top-30 quarterback prospects already committed elsewhere. The 2024 quarterback cycle has some promising options, but we are still far off from those players even signing with a program, much less suiting up in a game.

Bennett will exhaust his ability following the 2022 season. From there, Beck and Vandagriff are expected to battle it out for who will replace the national championship-winning quarterback. Stockton will factor into that as well, along with assuming a much larger role in the future outlook of the Georgia quarterback position. Until Georgia lands its next quarterback, Stockton should be seen as the long-term future of the position at Georgia.

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