ESPN explains why Georgia should be ‘genuinely optimistic’ about the future at quarterback
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ESPN explains why Georgia football should be optimistic about the quarterback position
The Georgia quarterback room has changed quite a bit in the course of the year. And in the eyes of ESPN, those changes are for the better of the position.
This time a year ago, the Bulldogs had Jamie Newman as the projected starter. Going forward, Georgia had D’Wan Mathis, Carson Beck and Stetson Bennett on the roster, with Brock Vandagriff committed to the program.
Those changes helped move Georgia from No. 11 in ESPN’s future quarterback rankings up to No. 6.
“Projecting Georgia’s quarterback outlook is one of the trickiest and most significant parts of this annual exercise,” ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg wrote. “The Bulldogs clearly haven’t made the same jump at quarterback as some of their regional competitors (Alabama, Florida, Clemson, briefly LSU). But there’s enough evidence to be genuinely optimistic about the position during the next three seasons.”
Daniels will be the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs in 2021, thanks in part to his strong finish to the 2020 season. If he plays as he did in wins over Mississippi State, South Carolina and Cincinnati over the course of a 12-plus game regular season, he’ll likely be off to the NFL after the 2021 season.
That’s what makes Georgia’s spot in Rittenberg’s rankings so interesting. The Bulldogs sit behind some of the elite teams in the sport. Oklahoma, Clemson and Alabama rank first, second and fourth. Ohio State, which has to replace Justin Fields comes in at No. 5, thanks in large part to having a commitment from the No. 1 overall player in the 2022 recruiting cycle in Quinn Ewers.
Of the teams ahead of Georgia, only No. 3 USC isn’t contending for the College Football Playoff on an annual basis. Given quarterback has been such a quagmire for the Georgia program in recent seasons, it should be seen as a positive that the Bulldogs have a strong pipeline for the position going forward.
Kirby Smart has never had a problem bringing in top talent at the position before though. He did sign 5-star quarterbacks Jacob Eason and Fields, in addition to bringing in high 4-star quarterback Jake Fromm. Eason and Fields though ended up transferring out after one season.
Fields’ presence on the 2018 team also meant Georgia wasn’t big-game hunting when it came to the position in the next cycle. That’s how the Bulldogs ended up with Mathis and Bennett as last-minute additions in the 2019 recruiting cycle.
When Fromm left school following his junior season, it meant Georgia had to scramble into the transfer portal to find better options than what it had on campus. When Newman opted-out due to the pandemic, it laid bare just how troubling Georgia’s current quarterback situation was due to Daniels still recovering from a knee injury.
But even with that tumultuous stretch during the 2020 season, Georgia still showed enough under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken to sign Vandagriff, a 5-star player and the No. 16 player in the 2021 recruiting class, and land a commitment from Stockton, a 5-star player and the No. 20 overall player in the current 2022 rankings.
That’s what allowed Smart to make such a strong statement about the quarterback position when speaking in December.
“Quarterbacks want to play at Georgia. They enjoy playing at Georgia,” Smart said. “Criticism is going to be there in everything we do, but the opportunity to play at the University of Georgia and be a quarterback… those kids want the opportunity to do that.
“They want the opportunity to win championships, and you putting yourself in the conversation about being able to win championships is always going to put you at the forefront of every quarterback’s in the country list.”
The 2022 quarterback battle, assuming Daniels is on an NFL team, figures to go a long way in shaping what the real future of Georgia’s quarterback room looks like. Beck will be a redshirt sophomore. Vandagriff likely will be a redshirt freshman and Stockton will be on campus next January. Whoever emerges from that most likely determines how much higher Georgia can climb on this list.
We’ll get our first real looks at Vandagriff and Beck this spring, while Stockton figures to tear it up once again as a senior at Rabun County high school
Having all that talent and potential is positive. It certainly beats the alternative as we saw in 2020. But the lessons of Fields and Eason have also shown that quarterback of the future doesn’t always end up being just that.
Georgia’s future at the position is bright. That’s due in part to Smart’s recruiting prowess and the early returns on hiring Monken. Whether Georgia continues to be strong at the position will depend on how all the pieces of the quarterback puzzle fit together in the coming seasons for Georgia.
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