ATHENS — Florida coach Billy Napier has taken note of Carson Beck’s growth in the Georgia offense with Saturday’s rivalry game in Jacksonville fast approaching.
“I see a talented athlete and passer,” Napier said on the SEC Coaches’ Teleconference on Wednesday. “He’s obviously been there a number of years.”
Napier knows that all too well; he once had former UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett committed and on the verge of signing with him at Louisiana in 2019 before Georgia came in with signing day offer.
As UGA fans recall Bennett passed up Beck on the UGA depth chart in 2020, and again in 2021, leading to a well-documented Cinderella Story that college football couldn’t get enough of the past two seasons.
And yet, it’s Beck who has actually had a harder path at UGA than Bennett, making the commitment to stay at Georgia and develop rather than transfer away.
Indeed, Beck may have had the higher recruiting rankings than Bennett, but he sat out more games and has a lesser supporting cast than the 2021 and 2022 Bulldogs on account of injuries, transfers and NFL draft attrition.
Napier, whose Gators aim to take down the No 1-ranked Bulldogs at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, certainly took note of how Vanderbilt defended Beck.
Beck threw an interception and fumbled the ball away against the Commodores, looking less than sharp in a 37-20 win in Nashville.
And yet, Beck still ranks eighth in the nation in passing yards per game (306.7) and 13th in pass efficiency (163.8).
“He’s gotten really comfortable in their system, he has arm talent, he’s very accurate and certainly he’s done a nice job making some plays with his feet,” Napier said.
“He has a really good group of players around him. They are really big, tall, long up front, (and a) really good group of skill players in every room,” Napier said. “You can see why he was one of the better quarterbacks in the country coming out.”
Napier surely knows Beck will have added incentive, and possibly pressure, as he returns to his hometown of Jacksonville with Georgia’s No. 1-ranking and SEC Championship Game hopes on the line.
Beck attended Jacksonville’s Mandarin High School and led that program to a state championship his junior season.
Originally an Alabama verbal commit, Beck was the 250th ranked player in the nation in the 2020 class, along with the No. 9-ranked Pro Style quarterback and No. 39 player in the state of Florida, per the 247Sports composite rankings.
In another world, Beck might have been convinced to play for Florida under Dan Mullen and been part of a team Napier inherited.
Instead, Napier will face Beck and Georgia on Saturday looking to get a win and put Florida on top in the SEC East Division.