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Freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis impresses, shows growth in scrimmage

Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart made things abundantly clear. Freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis isn’t going to unseat junior Jake Fromm as the starting quarterback. But Smart did want people to know that Mathis impressed in Georgia’s scrimmage on Saturday.

Mathis, listed at 6-foot-4, is going through his first spring practice as he enrolled early with the Bulldogs. He’s far from a finished product, but he did display some of the tools that had Georgia and Ohio State vying for his services on early signing day.

“I thought D’Wan (Mathis) did some good things with his feet. He was able to break contain and get out and move around,” Smart said. “He got better today. He has some improving to do, but he got better today.”

Smart added that Mathis and Stetson Bennett split the reps as Georgia’s back-up on Saturday. Bennett, a one-time Georgia walk-on, also landed with the Bulldogs on early signing day, as he signed with the Bulldogs out of Jones County Junior College.

Mathis hails from Belleville, Mich., and was rated as the No. 11 pro-style quarterback in the 2019 class. In recent years, Georgia hasn’t had a problem playing freshmen quarterbacks, as Fromm, Justin Fields and Jacob Eason all took significant snaps as freshman. But Mathis — who spoke with DawgNation shortly after signing with Georgia — knows he isn’t going to come in and usurp the job from Fromm.

“Georgia has presented a great opportunity for my son, and we’ve been informed that if he does his part as a student-athlete, he’ll have the opportunity to be the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart this fall,” Mathis’ father Terence said. “D’Wan understands the program and the role he has been recruited for, to learn from the current quarterback and not be divisive or cause any problems

Smart seems to be on the same page as Mathis when talking about his development. Georgia is bringing Mathis along, given that he still doesn’t have complete command of Georgia’s offensive playbook, much like an 18-year old freshman wouldn’t be able to have a nuanced discussion on the best restaurants in Athens.

“D’Wan has a lot of growth because he hasn’t been here, he hasn’t taken reps. I was very pleased with where he was today. I’m taking it that he is improved and he has a long way to go, but I am pleased with where he is right now.

“We tried to simplify for it him today so he can go out there and play football and we could evaluate him at where he is now, not giving him the same menu that Jake (Fromm)’s got.”

Smart has spent more time speaking about the back-up quarterback job this spring and what Mathis and Bennett potentially bring to the table, as opposed to his current starter in Fromm.

But Smart also took the time to praise Fromm as he continues to find ways to grow as a quarterback, even in the absence of a true competition for the first time in his Georgia career.

“There’s probably times that you have to be careful that he doesn’t get bored,” Smart said. “I know defensively he knows every call we make, he hears the call, he’s already got his call, he knows what the next step is from getting their call and our call half the time. But, that’s part of growth.

“That’s part of him kind of implementing his leadership to our offense to use the experience he has to say, ‘You know what, we’re not executing well. We’ve gone three-and-out against the two defense. That’s not who we are.’ And I think you see him inserting himself more as he’s gotten more and more comfortable with it.”

Last season, Fromm threw for 30 touchdowns compared to just 6 interceptions. Fromm and Mathis are also learning a slightly different offense this spring, as Georgia replaced offensive coordinator Jim Chaney with James Coley. Coley spent last season as Georgia’s quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.

Mathis and Fromm will get a chance to display his skills on April 20, when Georgia will have its G-Day scrimmage. The scrimmage is set for a 2 p.m. ET start time.

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