ATHENS — Kirby Smart doesn’t typically spend much if any time looking back, but the Georgia head coach felt compelled to when discussing Carson Beck with ESPN.
Specifically, Smart provided his version of what happened that fateful week of Sept. 11, 2021, when Stetson Bennett’s Georgia legend began in earnest after Beck was dropped a peg down on the depth chart entering into the UAB game.
“He took the reps as the Two (No. 2 on depth chart) the entire week,” said Smart, who had announced on Monday of that game week Beck would be the No. 2 quarterback should then-starter JT Daniels not be able to play on account of his oblique injury.
“And right at the end of the week …. Coach (Todd) Monken came to me and said, ‘I think we need to go with Stetson, he’s had a better week, and I think he gives us a better chance to win.’ "
Beck reflected on that week during a paid interview last summer, sharing how it affected him.
“I was just not ready,” Beck said on the Footballville podcast. “I got the chance to play in the game, but I was not in the right headspace mentally, and I was not locked in on the game at all.
“When I went in, I was not confident at all. When I went in, I felt like I didn’t know how to play quarterback just based on everything that had happened, and that’s when I knew I totally just missed that opportunity.”
Part of the Georgia program’s personality is for players to share their “why” with one another and learn what motivates one another, and Beck was no exception, reflecting on that UAB moment with teammates.
“Carson spoke to the team about missing that opportunity and how it affected him, and how he didn’t think that he had prepared the right way,” Smart said. “He didn’t think he was prepared, and it went on where Stetson never looked back, played for two years.
“But Carson Beck could have been our quarterback that entire time, and he learned from that, he learned valuable lessons from that.”
Smart, it’s worth noting, believes Beck would have done just fine against UAB had he gotten the start in the 56-7 win.
“I don’t think for one second with this kid that the moment was too big for him,” Smart said. “I think that the week of practice that Stetson did better than him. I think if he had gone out and played that game he would have been super successful.
“Number one, he has great weapons around him, he has a really good system around him, it would have been that way that game,” he said. “There’s no plays that Stetson made that Carson couldn’t have made. I think he was definitely ready for it. I think he missed the opportunity in practice going against a pretty good defense that year, it was one of the best I’ve ever been around.
“What he’s been able to do since then is grow, get countless experiences as a Two, and go against really good players in practice.”
Smart announced earlier this fall that Beck will get the start against UT-Martin in Georgia’s season-opening game at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
Beck has looked very strong in the past two G-Day Scrimmages, and Smart said his experience separated him from backups Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton when determining who would begin the season as the starter.
Smart has said he thinks Georgia can win with each of those three quarterbacks, but he is excited to see what Beck can do with an opportunity he was worked toward and waited on.
“He’s different, the players really enjoy him, they rally around him,” Smart said. “He has a way with the skill players, calm, cool and collected, and poised in the pocket.
“People point to the fact he hasn’t done it in a game, but around here we value practice, and a lot of times the practice is more valuable than the game in terms of who you are going against.”
That will certainly apply this week, as UT-Martin is an FCS-level school with a lower caliber of athlete than Beck sees each week on the scout team.