ATHENS — When Jim Donnan says “every quarterback situation is delicate,” he’s not just making conversation.
Donnan was Georgia’s head coach in 1998 when a dynamic quarterback out of Atlanta suddenly became available and expressed an interest in joining the Bulldogs. And it wasn’t like Donnan was in the market for one.
Georgia already had four quarterbacks on the roster — Daniel Cobb, Jon England, Nate Hybl and Mike Usry. But after Quincy Carter left pro baseball, came in over the summer, won the starting job in the three weeks of preseason camp and ended up playing in every game, UGA was left with one quarterback.
“We had worked hard to recruit quarterbacks,” Donnan said Monday. “Cobb and Usry and England were already here and we had brought in Nate Hybl in the spring. So all those guys were fighting for the job. Quincy decides to stop playing baseball. I had heard of Quincy Carter, but I hadn’t been involved in recruiting him or anything. All the sudden he wants to come here, and he goes through fall camp and won the job.
“We felt like Quincy gave us the best chance of winning. But after the season, all those guys left.”
Georgia can only hope it’s current situation doesn’t have a similar outcome. The Bulldogs on Monday named Greyson Lambert as their starting quarterback for Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana-Monroe. Lambert, a first-year transfer from Virginia, got the nod over redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey and redshirt junior Faton Bauta.
Head coach Mark Richt indicated at least one other quarterback and perhaps all three could play on Saturday. He also said the competition will continue into the season.
Donnan said that, too, in 1998. But after the season, England decided to give up football, Cobb transferred to a junior college and ended up at Auburn, Usry transferred to South Florida and Hybl ended up at Oklahoma. All three who kept playing ended up as starters elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Carter started every game in 1998 and 1999 and recorded 5,736 total yards and 38 touchdowns while leading Georgia to 9-3 and 8-4 records. But he missed half the 2000 season with an injury, walkon Cory Phillips finished as the starter and Carter went to the NFL after his junior season.
The whole thing wasn’t necessarily an acrimonious endeavor. Donnan said he helped the other quarterbacks find places to transfer.
“They weren’t happy; that’s for sure,” Donnan said. “But at the same time I felt obligated to try to help them and I did.”
Nobody can predict what effect Monday’s decision will have on Georgia’s other quarterbacks at this early juncture. The three quarterbacks were informed of the decision before practice by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. The team was told by Richt when he called up the team at the end of the two-hour, full-pads workout.
By all indications, it was a razor’s edge competition.
“I can’t tell you how many times we went back and forth on the thing, quite frankly,” Richt said Monday evening. “It was very close. But coach Schottenheimer and I decided that it would be wise to (make a decision) right now so we could kind of get it over with, so to speak. Maybe within a day or two everybody can kind of settle down and play football, think about winning.”
Georgia’s future at the position appears secure. The Bulldogs already have a signed financial aid agreement from Jacob Eason of Lake Stevens, Wash., the nation’s No. 2 rated quarterback in the class of 2016, and a commitment for 2017 from Bailey Hockman of McEachern.
But with this immediate decision made, it will be the reactions of the other quarterbacks on the roster that will be of most importance. None of them were available for comment Monday.
For now though, Lambert won the first start fair and square.
“I don’t know if I’ve watched a single down of Virginia football,”senior left tackle John Theus said. “But he came to Georgia and busted his butt.”