ATHENS — When it comes to Georgia’s quarterback competition, which will resume when preseason camp opens Tuesday, there are all kinds of theories bouncing around.
Many believe it’s Brice Ramsey’s job to lose. Others think Faton Bauta closed the gap during spring practice and surged ahead during offseason workouts. Still others insist Greyson Lambert transferring in from Virginia was a sure sign that first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer is dissatisfied with the players he inherited and wants to go in another direction.
But Georgia coach Mark Richt, asked about the situation frequently over the summer, has insisted that nothing has been decided, that the three players will enter preseason practice even and that a starter won’t be decided until the week of the season opener — if then.
“The reality is, at quarterback, until you get in that game and start playing, you really don’t know,” Richt said. “You do all this stuff (in camp) and a guy could win the job and then get out there and struggle. The next guy might just go in and flourish. You just don’t know.”
To be sure, Richt said the decision would not be left to chance or whims. Every throw and handoff the three players make in camp will be recorded on video and reviewed. The coaches will assign grades after every practice and will have them take written tests daily. They’ll also be watching for intangibles, such as leadership styles and how teammates respond.
Asked for a specific criteria, Richt prattled on for minutes.
“How are they in meetings? Do they take good notes? Can they recall what you just spoke about on the front end of the meeting as you leave before you walk out the door? Are they truly locked in mentally? Can they take that knowledge and go to the field and not forget what you just talked about and can they handle that?”
Starting Tuesday there is one month and 29 practice opportunities to win the job. Here’s a breakdown:
The skinny: Call Ramsey “The Favorite.” The 6-foot-3, 213-pound sophomore has played in more of Georgia’s games than any of the other candidates and arrived on campus with more acclaim as well. A consensus four-star prospect out of Camden County High, 247Sports.com rated him the No. 3 quarterback in the nation as a senior. Last season he served the Bulldogs as the primary backup to starter Hutson Mason and nearly overtook him as the No. 1 quarterback before Mason rallied with his best performance in Game 9 against Kentucky. Ramsey played in eight games, including more than half of the Belk Bowl after Mason left with a concussion. He has completed 61.5 of his career passes for 333 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Strengths: With Ramsey, the fuss has always been about his arm. Tall and slender, he looks and plays much like Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, whipping the ball with great velocity and usually unleashing a perfect spiral. Ramsey stands tall in the pocket and also carries himself and plays with great confidence.
Weaknesses: Ramsey’s decision-making and coverage-reading abilities have come into question as he has a penchant for locking in on one receiver and throwing into coverage. His ability to master the playbook and always get the Bulldogs in the right play was the only thing that kept him from beating out Mason a year ago. At times he tries to be too perfect with his throws, occasionally missing open receivers as he tries to hit them in stride with a high-arcing aerial rather than just putting the ball hard into the body.
He said it: “I have playing experience, but that means nothing now. You have to learn everything all over again. I just felt comfortable with the playbook when coach Bobo left. Now I’m back to square one. I just have to work hard and do everything I can.” — Ramsey
The skinny: Don’t count out the 6-3, 215-pound junior. Bauta closed the gap significantly between him and Ramsey with his performance during spring practice and summer workouts. When Georgia’s media guide came out with Ramsey listed No. 1 on the depth chart, Richt felt compelled to send a correction via Twitter: “Just so everybody understands, our QB race is wide open and we will decide on a starter sometime during preseason practice!” Richt tweeted. To date, however, Bauta’s on-field contributions for the Bulldogs have been extremely limited. As the No. 3 signal-caller the past two seasons, he has appeared in six games, completing 4 of 5 passes for 48 yards with no scores or interceptions. He also has carried the ball 10 times for 46 yards.
Strengths: Bauta came out of Dwyer High in West Palm Beach, Fla., with the nickname of “Tebow Jr.” because of his reputation for being a physical runner as well as deft playmaker. He has distinguished himself in the Bulldogs’ locker room because of his strong leadership qualities, despite not playing a prominent on-field role. His mastery of Georgia’s playbook — and now the revised one provided by Schottenheimer — is exceptional and unsurpassed on the team. Same goes for work ethic.
Weaknesses: Bauta’s arm strength and downfield passing ability is substandard and limits the Bulldogs’ options from a play-calling standpoint. He has a penchant abandoning the pocket too quickly at times and trying to run out of trouble. His willingness to take on contact makes him more susceptible to injury.
He said it: “Faton has worked extremely hard to get a comfort level with everything that coach Schotty is trying to teach him. I think he has gotten better and better.” — Richt
The skinny: In search of some quarterback depth, the Bulldogs hit the jackpot when Lambert arrived. After graduating from Virginia in 3 1/2 years, Lambert is immediately eligible. Georgia recruited Lambert out of Wayne County High in 2012, but the Bulldogs withdrew their offer after Ramsey, a class behind, committed.
Strengths: Lambert has the most game experience of Georgia’s quarterbacks. He has played in 16 games the past two seasons at Virginia, starting nine last season. “He knows what it means to get hit in the mouth and get back up,” Richt said. At 6-5, 225, he’s a big strong player who can stand in the pocket and take a hit. He also has better-than-average arm strength, is extremely intelligent.
Weaknesses: Lambert’s lack of mobility contributed to him being unable to extend plays under heavy pressure. And ball security ultimately cost him his starting job with the Cavaliers. He threw more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) at Virginia.
He said it: “I just felt like I needed a change in order for me to gain back my love and joy for the game. I didn’t feel like myself. I just needed a change for me personally.” — Lambert