Kirby Smart doubles down on Georgia quarterback room day after Arch Manning commits to Texas

1/10/22 - Indianapolis - Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) attempts a pass against the pressure from Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Christian Harris (8) during the first quarter at the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Monday, January 10, 2022. Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

ATHENS —It didn’t take long for Kirby Smart to double-down on the Georgia quarterback room after Arch Manning chose Texas over Smart’s Bulldogs on Thursday.

Georgia had gone all-in on Manning, the No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2023 class and arguably the most high-profile quarterback recruit of all time.

“I would easily say this is the best, when you take a picture of the whole room, top to bottom, those four guys that are going to meet in that quarterback room in fall camp, the most depth we’ve ever had,” Smart said on the Crain & Company podcast on Friday.

“Especially the most depth of the guys that I know and trust can play the position.”

It’s an interesting comment considering the only change from a year ago is that JT Daniels, who was the leading Heisman Trophy candidate coming out of SEC Media Days last summer, has transferred to West Virginia and UGA signed 4-star freshman prospect Gunner Stockton.

RELATED: New Heisman leader emerges, and it’s a Georgia Bulldog entering 2021 season

Smart explained that the experience Georgia gained in the last year is what makes this group so special.

“Brock (Vandagriff) has been through a couple of springs now, Carson (Beck) has been through a couple of springs. I’ve got to see them in spring games, I’ve got to see them in game action,” Smart said. “You get to see these guys really compete and grow.

“Obviously, we know Stetson has played in a lot of football games, from what we saw last year.”

Still, the Bulldogs were reportedly among the schools in the running for Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams in January before Williams followed his head coach out to USC.

At Georgia, the quarterback position has always been somewhat tough to read under Smart.

Big passing numbers aren’t necessarily as valued as consistency and mobility, with Smart wanting a certain look and feel at the position.

Conversely, bad passing numbers don’t always worry the head coach either, and especially not in the most recent spring game.

None of the current quarterbacks looked that good in the G-Day Game, with Bennett going 15-of-35 (43 percent) passing for 273 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions while Beck, who exited spring drills No. 2, was 14-of-26 (54 percent) passing for 274 yards.

Smart explained the quarterbacks’ lack of efficiency was due to the fact UGA only ran the ball 33 times, providing evidence of how important it will be for the Bulldogs to run the ball effectively in order to set up the pass this season.

RELATED: Kirby Smart reveals there’s a lot more to offense than numbers after G-Day Game

Smart said he also saw “some promising stuff” from Stockton in the spring, though the freshman is not expected to see much if any playing time this season barring a rash of injuries at the position.

Smart has already announced Bennett is the team’s starter for the 2022 campaign on the strength of his experience.

“I need to see them continue to develop, take on that leadership role,” Smart said. “We’ve tried to put those four guys in front of the team, or maybe in front of their individual age groups, more often. We want to see them develop, we want to see them get ready to play.”

Smart did note that Georgia has not had the quarterback who started the season-opening game finish the season as a starter since Jake Fromm’s three years leading the program from 2017-2019.

“You don’t know when your number is going to be called at quarterback,” Smart said. “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 of times.”

Smart has said he expects the Georgia offense to do more this season on account of the defense losing five first-round NFL Draft picks.

Kirby Smart G-Day press conference

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