ATHENS — It’s a common refrain that the most popular position on any football team is the backup quarterback.
At Georgia, that sentiment has some complexities.
Starting quarterback JT Daniels was the backup until the final four games of last season, albeit on account of the knee injury he brought with him when he transferred from Southern Cal last May.
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Fifth-year quarterback Stetson Bennett was the backup going into the first game of 2020, but then he became the starter for five games. Then Bennett injured his shoulder, up 14-0 on Florida in the first quarter, and was unable to reclaim the job once healthy again.
Second-year freshman quarterback Carson Beck and incoming freshman quarterback Brock Vandagriff have been backups their entire young collegiate careers, and both have plenty of support from fans.
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Smart provided some insight into all of the UGA quarterbacks following Scrimmage One, starting out by saying he likes how Daniels is asserting himself as the starting quarterback.
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Daniels and Beck had strong scrimmages, according to those in attendance, but Smart didn’t elaborate much on plays at the scrimmage.
The Saturday scrimmage was open to several boosters and parents, but it’s closed to the media.
“All three of those guys are getting reps, and all three of them are going to be good players,” Smart said, asked to assess the backup quarterbacks.
“They continue to work hard, they all got reps today. Each one has a different strength and each one has a different weakness. For each one, they are growing.”
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Vandagriff received a great deal of attention during the 2021 recruiting period as a 5-star quarterback out of UGA’s backyard.
“Brock has the least amount of reps and I guess familiarity with the offense, so his learning curve is greater,” Smart said. “But he’s also picking it up quick, especially for a mid-year freshman.”
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One of the hottest battles is for the No. 2 QB job, with Bennett showing poise and mobility last season, while the taller, stronger-armed Beck works to come into his own with the playbook.
There’s a good chance Bennett and Beck stay 2A and 2B, as there’s an argument for each to be “next man up” at the position.
“Stetson does a good job in the pocket, he moves, he’s athletic, he understands the offense, he can do things with his brain because he’s taken a lot of reps,” Smart said. “And then Carson has done a good job this spring.”
Indeed, those in attendance said Beck did a very good job in Scrimmage One and looked as good as Daniels, at times.
Of course, Smart is a realist who keeps things in perspective. The quarterbacks were not open to contact, and they were playing against a very inexperienced secondary.
“A lot of young guys that haven’t played a lot of college football,” Smart said of his defensive backs. “We’re a long way from being ready, in terms of what we need to do in the secondary.”