ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if Greyson Lambert ends up starting at quarterback for the Bulldogs again this week.
I don’t believe anybody should be shocked or appalled by that. After all, it worked out pretty well in the first game.
Yes, freshman Jacob Eason looked a little better against North Carolina. Well, his stats looked slightly better anyway. And it would appear to anybody watching this drama unfold that the nearly 6-foot-6, 242-pound quarterback has the most up side. Eventually, I believe like everybody else, Eason will be Georgia’s starting QB.
But there’s no rush. Besides, there’s still much on which Eason needs to improve. At least that’s the feedback from the head coach.
“There’s so many more things that went into that game that didn’t work out right with Jacob out there,” Kirby Smart said Tuesday following the Bulldogs’ practice. “So you’d like to base things on how guys performed and how they played, and I know to the public eye he made a couple bigger throws. (But) he got an opportunity to make a couple bigger throws. So that’s not the be-all and end-all.”
Really, it’s that one long ball that has everybody all tingly about Eason. Eason connected with Isaiah McKenzie for a 51-yard completion on third-and-5 at Georgia’s 33 with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. That gave the Bulldogs a first down at the North Carolina 16 and eventually led to a 29-yard go-ahead field goal.
Stacked atop each other at game’s end, that made Eason’s stats looked better than Lambert’s. Eason was 8-of-12 for 131 yards and a touchdown. Lambert was 5-of-8 for 54 yards and no scores.
But that wasn’t all that Georgia’s coaches were looking at when it came to their evaluation of what happened in the game. And in that regard, Eason remained deficient in a few areas.
The Bulldogs had to call a timeout on Eason’s first series early in the second quarter because the play clock was running out. There were other times Eason didn’t get them in the right play or made the wrong read.
And aside from the aforementioned deep ball — granted, the longest in two-plus seasons from a quarterback to a receiver — Eason’s passing performance wasn’t drastically different than Lambert’s. For instance, his 17-yard TD pass to McKenzie really was a one-foot forward lateral, and he was credited with two such “passes.” And his second longest completion of the night — 23 yards to Terry Godwin — was a simple flare pass.
Lambert had a nice 25-yard downfield strike to McKenzie and another well-placed hard throw to Michael Chigbu for a third-down conversion. His chief problem was his lack of mobility in the face of a pass rush, and his time of recognition when the heat was on. He was sacked three times, two of which virtually no quarterback could’ve avoided. He was also the victim of one drop by tight end Isaac Nauta. So his numbers should have been 6-of-8 and closer to 80 yards rather 50.
But it was with sound reason that Georgia coaches chose to put Lambert back in the game toward the end of each half. He has the higher level of overall efficiency in hurry-up situations. Down, distance, clock and play-call remains a big part of football.
“There’s a lot of functioning of the offense that’s got to improve — for both of them,” Smart said Tuesday. “And for the guys around them. The total communication on offense has got to go up. Whether people are calling out the right ‘Mike’ (linebacker), calling out the right person to support, blocking the right guy, carrying the ball the right way. There’s a lot that’s got to improve, and that goes for Jacob and Greyson as well.”
Hence, the competition continues.
Remember, this isn’t about politics or subterfuge. That’s certainly not the case when it’s the Nicholls State Colonels coming to visit your home field. The Bulldogs are trying to get this right for the long haul. Or at least before SEC play arrives.
It’s like a preparing a fine entree for a grand dinner. The long and short of it is this: It ain’t ready yet.
The real tricky question on Eason going forward is when will he be ready to take the keys. While the schedule sets up ideally for the Bulldogs in terms of goals achievement, it’s not optimum for the preparation of a young quarterbacks.
After this weekend’s glorified practice game, Georgia is on the road for two straight weeks. As long as I’ve been around this game, I’ve never heard a coach say he’d like to break in a starter on the road in a conference game.
Don’t scoff at Missouri. The Tigers have their issues, but defense — and generating defensive pressure — is not one of them. The next week at Ole Miss promises to be even more challenging. Did you catch the Rebels’ defensive front against FSU last night?
Smart, as ever, is looking out no further than the particular day he’s in. And he’s not ready to make a call. Not close, apparently.
“I want to,” Smart said of his desire to tab a full-time starter, “but it may not resolve itself. When we feel comfortable about who’s going to go out there for the first play, then we’ll name it. But we’re not that comfortable about that right now. I don’t think it’s as pressing an issue right now because both of them have played now. So it’s not as in the forefront.”
Maybe not for them. But the Bulldog nation can’t stop barking about it.