Greyson Lambert’s big test at Georgia will come later, not in opener

Greyson Lambert’s real test as Georgia’s starting quarterback won’t come in the opener against Louisiana-Monroe but later against difficult SEC opponents. ( Joshua L. Jones/Special to the AJC)

ATHENS – It’s rare for Georgia to have a late-summer quarterback debate and it’s apparent the ordeal has worn on coach Mark Richt. That’s the only possible explanation for the man suddenly trying to quote Winston Churchill Tuesday, which isn’t exactly something in his wheelhouse.

“There’s a Winston Churchill quote and I know I’ll botch it,” Richt said when asked about how he has counseled his backup quarterbacks. “He talked about what a shame it would be if your moment comes and you weren’t prepared.”

The Churchill quote Richt referenced (as quoted by a grad assistant): “To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared…”

Not every Churchill soundbite works in college football.

“Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” (He never coached at Auburn.)

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something…” (He never met Bobby Petrino.)

“I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.” (Steve Spurrier said that first.)

Georgia plays its first game against a hyphen: Louisiana-Monroe. A punctuated opponent strongly suggests that Greyson Lambert’s first game as starting quarterback will not be a disaster. If you can’t look good against a Sun Belt team, there’s a problem.

Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” But if you’re going through hell against Louisiana-Monroe, don’t bother catching a connecting flight to Nashville because it will be Brice Ramsey starting against Vanderbilt.

Richt hasn’t been specific about what led him to pick Lambert over Ramsey and Faton Bauta. He has gone out of his way to praise all three for their leadership, study habits and practices. He also understands the way the media works and knows if he said, “(Quarterback A) was picked because he throws the ball hard and accurate,” Tweeting vultures would immediately type, “Richt thinks his other quarterbacks have noodle arms!”

Richt also was never going to admit the obvious: He really has no idea who is best quarterback is. He can’t possibly know. He has only seen them in practices and scrimmages — against teammates who’ve been told not to touch.

He hasn’t seen them take a snap in Sanford Stadium in front of 92,000 fans, who will need somebody new to blame now that Mike Bobo is gone. He has never seen how they will react on third and 12 from their own 9. Or in the red zone. Or against Alabama or Auburn or South Carolina or in a sea of mutant orange in Tennessee.

Quarterbacks, more than any other player on the field, are defined by how well they perform under pressure. A non-conference game against Louisiana-Monroe: not pressure. The road game at Vanderbilt a week later: Tougher. The home game against South Carolina that follows: Much tougher.

Lambert wasn’t made available to the media Tuesday. A head coach won’t subject his new starter to a blur of interviews before his first game. The last media access to any of the Georgia quarterbacks was the first day of practice on Aug. 4. I would think a 10-minute interview can’t be as intimidating as a herd of thundering blubber linemen descending on you, but that’s just me.

Ramsey was viewed as the favorite to win the job. He shouldn’t have been. For Richt to give a scholarship to an upperclassmen transfer, especially at quarterback, was highly unusual. That was a tip-off that he and coaches were uncertain about Ramsey and that they saw something in Lambert.

The arrival of a graduate transfer from Virginia surprised everybody. Lambert is not even in the Georgia media guide because he didn’t enroll until July 13, six weeks after the school’s sports information department sent the guide to the printers.

I’m not sure the last time was that Dogs’ starting quarterback wasn’t listed in the media guide. Probably the same year anybody in Butts-Mehre Hall referenced Winston Churchill.

Richt said Tuesday he’s not looking at the opener as a rotation at quarterbacks. He also said he’s not concerned about disrupting the locker room, as if Lambert was a mercenary.

“The reality is we bring new guys in every year (in recruiting),” he said. “This is a little different because it is a transfer and the timing is a little different. But the bottom line is we have 85 scholarships to give out and we’re going to stay in that framework.”

Let me translate: “We needed a quarterback.”

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