Schottenheimer on passing game: ‘We’re not panicking’

UGA quarterback Greyson Lambert looks to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for a call during Wednesday's practice. Fans would like to see these two show more in the passing game after a poor showing against Vanderbilt.

ATHENS — Brian Schottenheimer hadn’t met with the media since Georgia’s season began, since Greyson Lambert was named the starting quarterback, and since Schottenheimer’s offense had a solid start in Game 1 before sputtering the next week. So when media members were informed Wednesday evening that “a coach” was coming to meet with them, the best guess was Schottenheimer was coming. It was correct.

Schottenheimer, Georgia’s first-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, acknowledged that the passing game had to improve, explained why Lambert won the job in the preseason, and why he is keeping it for now.  And he tried to project an overall calm about things.

“We’re not panicking,” Schottenheimer said. “That game’s behind us. We didn’t play very well offensively, especially in the passing game. But we found a way to win. I think that’s a positive. We’ve moved on, we’re getting ready for South Carolina, which is gonna be another challenge. Another group that’s gonna load the box. We know that.”

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No major changes are planned. Lambert remains the starter, Schottenheimer repeated several times, which was no surprise. It also seems clear that sophomore Brice Ramsey will again get at least one series once, possibly more. But it’s not determined, or at least not announced, how many it will be.

“Brice, his number of reps is kind of depending on how the game goes,” Schottenheimer said. “But Greyson starts, and all those guys, including Faton (Bauta), need to be ready to go.”

Schottenheimer was later asked what it would take to make a change at quarterback.

“The big thing for us is Greyson’s our starter. He’s gonna start the game. He knows that we expect him to go in there and play well and move the team like he did against Louisiana-Monroe,” Schottenehimer said. “He also knows that there’s a good chance that we’re going to play Brice, maybe Faton, along the way. The biggest thing for all those guys is to go in there and do what we wanna do, which is take care of the football, which I think we’re pleased with that. ….

“But we don’t want anybody looking over their shoulder. Greyson doesn’t have to go out there and play great or else. Because whether he plays great or not we’re probably gonna play the other guys a little bit.”

Georgia’s running game, powered by Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, may be the linchpin to the offense. But the passing game has to be there as well, and it was in the season opener: Lambert was 8-for-12 for 141 yards and two touchdowns in a 51-14 win over Louisiana-Monroe.

But then Lambert got off to a horrible start at Vanderbilt: 0-for-7, with his first two passes of the second half well short of open receivers. The rest of the game went much better, and Lambert still has yet to turn it over in a Georgia uniform.

“I know we’re gonna get better,” head coach Mark Richt said Wednesday night. “Not perfect by any means. It’s not like we’re inept in any way. You can’t have over 400 yards of offense and say it was an awful day. We’ll be fine.”

But that start against Vanderbilt, and his performance last season at Virginia, has re-ignited the doubt about Lambert, at least among the fan base.

“We didn’t get off to a good start throwing the ball,” Schottenheimer said. “Missed some throws. Had a drop or two here or there, a couple (play) calls I’d like to have back, I think. But again, we know as we get going through the season we’re gonna have to be real balanced. We had a good week of practice this week, both running and throwing. But I’m very confident that the passing game will get going.”

Some good things did happen, Schottenheimer pointed out. Lambert hit Isaiah McKenzie on a crossing route in between a couple defenders. He finished the game 11-for-14. The overall result, however, still wasn’t up to “the standard.”

Some of that may be what Richt referred to as a learning curve. Lambert only arrived on campus on July 13, giving him less than two months to work with his new teammates before going in as the starter.

“Not to make excuses, he’s still working on some timing stuff with some of these guys,” Schottenheimer said. “And again I think we’ll see it just get better as we go. We think it was just kind of one of those days (where) it wasn’t our best day throwing it. Certainly not what we think is the standard.”

An unheralded, but important, part of Georgia’s offense is “checking” the play at the line of scrimmage. That could mean changing the direction of a run play based on the defense, or changing from a run to a pass or vice versa.

That’s something Lambert does well. For instance, Schottenheimer, who’s used to getting photocopies of previous plays as they do in the NFL, remarked that when Lambert comes off the field he’s able to immediately tell Schottenheimer what he saw on the defense, and thus why he made the check at the line.

“He sees things really well, has a good understanding of defenses,” Schottenheimer said. “Again, picked up the system fast. But a lot of it is he’s played quite a bit of football so he can see rotation things that might take him off. ‘Hey this is a bad look, this guy’s getting ready to come, I don’t want to run the ball over there.’ I think that certainly was part of it.”

By “it,” he was referring to Lambert’s ability to win the job. Now the quarterback has to play well enough too keep it.

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