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Georgia football trying to get more athletic at the quarterback position
Regardless of who starts at quarterback for Florida on Saturday, Kirby Smart and Georgia will see a capable rushing threat. The Gators lead the country in yards per carry and the legs of both Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson are a big reason why.
Jones is Florida’s leading rusher, racking up 484 yards on 85 carries. Richardson is the most explosive option on Florida, as he’s run for 348 yards on just 25 carries. While the two quarterbacks have different rushing styles, the running ability of both will test the Georgia defense on Saturday.
“They have a run game scheme that is built to allow the quarterback to run,” Smart said. “Dan (Mullen) doesn’t abort the run, he uses the run game to set up his play-actions and when you least expect it, he runs the quarterback. Those guys are just really good runners.”
Related: Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Florida’s Dan Mullen dial up quarterback smokescreens
As for Smart’s own quarterback decision, he’ll have to weigh how much he wants to incorporate a mobile quarterback into his game plan. No one should confuse Stetson Bennett with Jones or Richardson, but the Georgia senior has proven an effective ball carrier when asked to do so.
Bennett though might not be the best option for Georgia to win on Saturday. That could be JT Daniels. Smart has reiterated many times Georgia will start whoever gives them the best chance to win. Daniels’ health has mattered on that subject, but it seems like he is as close as he has been to full health since Georgia’s game against Vanderbilt.
For what it is worth, running back James Cook hinted at a two-quarterback system when speaking with the media on Wednesday night.
“Both of them are preparing like they’re going to start,” Cook said. “I don’t know who’s going to start or who’s going to play more. But both are preparing like they want to start
Daniels is not the same runner that any of the other three quarterback options are. He is an old-school, pocket quarterback. Some of that can be chalked up to the effects of his knee injury that he suffered at USC in 2019.
But Georgia isn’t going to design many — if any — runs for Daniels.
“I would love to have the perfect quarterback that runs a 4.5 (40-yard dash). He is 6′4″. He reads things,” Smart said. “He is great in the pocket. I would love to have that, but I am not saying that I have to have that. I have to have the guy that gives us the best chance to win.”
When asked about incorporating a mobile quarterback into the Georgia offense in the future, Smart dove deeper into what he wants from his quarterbacks. Athleticism is nice, and a necessity in the modern game per Smart. But a quarterback still needs to be accurate and make the correct decisions.
For as much as the athleticism of Jones and Richardson brings to the table, their carelessness with the football takes points away from the Florida offense. Jones has thrown 9 interceptions, the most in the conference. Richardson has thrown 3 on just 37 pass attempts.
“As long as you do not sacrifice decision-making and accuracy, which are the two greatest components of a quarterback, then yes, I want a runner,” Smart said. “For every ounce of decision-making and accuracy that I lose, I am willing to give up some running ability.”
Related: Kirby Smart talks Georgia-Florida quarterbacks: JT Daniels and Stetson Bennett both prepared
Smart wants to get more athletic at the quarterback. For most of his time at Georgia, the Bulldogs have not had an athletic threat under center. Of the 66 games where Smart has been a head coach, 55 of them have been started by Greyson Lambert, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm and Daniels. No one would mistake those players as mobile players.
D’Wan Mathis started one game at Georgia before ultimately being benched for Bennett. He’s now gone on to start 10 games in his Georgia career. Those combined 11 starts — all within the past two seasons — are the closest Georgia has gotten to employing a plus athlete as its QB1.
Looking though at how Smart has recruited shows that he’s targeting quarterbacks that possess the ability to run. He famously recruited Justin Fields, the No. 1 overall dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class. Fields though ended up transferring after just one season. The next recruiting cycle saw him initially target John Rhys Plumlee. He ultimately ended up at Ole Miss, where he has bounced between quarterback and receiver. Georgia ended up signing Mathis and Bennett in the 2019 recruiting class.
Carson Beck signed with Georgia in the 2020 cycle and he is perhaps a true middle between Daniels and Bennett. He’s not going to take off and run like Lamar Jackson, but he does have some capable athleticism. Georgia brought in Jamie Newman during the 2020 offseason, a player who was expected to use his legs to set up the pass. But Daniels also transferred into the program that same summer and we know how that all worked out.
Last year Georgia signed Brock Vandagriff, who would fall into the dual-threat category. While he ran the ball less as his high school career developed, he is a better athlete than the likes of Daniels, Fromm and Beck. In this cycle, Georgia holds a commitment from Gunner Stockton. He’s shown a willingness to run and been effective in doing so, as he now holds the Georgia high school record for most touchdowns in a career