JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In what would go down as the most radical coaching move by Mark Richt since he sent the entire team onto the field to celebrate a first-quarter touchdown against Florida in 2007, Faton Bauta is going to start at quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs against the Gators on Saturday.
At least that is the belief of several reporters who are citing sources to that effect in the last 12 hours. Mike Huguenin, managing editor of the website GridIronNow.com and a longtime Florida-based journalist, was the first to report it as a virtual certainty, citing an anonymous source Thursday night.
However, DawgNation.com has received conflicting information from sources that should have knowledge of the situation. Bauta, they’re saying, has been getting work with the No. 1 offense in practice and will likely have a role in Saturday’s game, but is not expected to start. Others have said Bauta could start but that it has not been determined yet.
Neither Richt nor offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have commented. The Bulldogs arrived in Jacksonville Thursday night and are hunkered down in St. Augustine until Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game.
Any playing time for Bauta will represent a bold — and possibly desperate — move by the Bulldogs as they get set to face No. 11 Florida and its nationally-ranked defense in the biggest game of the season. A loss to the Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) on Saturday will eliminate Georgia (5-2, 3-2) from the SEC East race.
Bauta, a redshirt junior who has been third on the depth chart all season, does not have a passing or rushing attempt all season. He has only five pass attempts (and four completions) and 10 rushes his entire career and they all have come in mop-up roles late in games. His most extensive action has come as Georgia’s holder on placement kicks, which he has done in every game this season.
Starting Bauta would be an extremely risky move for the coaching staff. They will look bad if Bauta fails miserably in the Bulldogs’ biggest game of the year. And if he plays great, there will be questions why Bauta wasn’t in that position before the eighth game of a two-loss season.
What is evident is Bauta has had two good weeks of practice. As a result, he has at the least moved past redshirt sophomore Brice Ramsey into the backup position behind starter Greyson Lambert.
Ramsey has appeared in five games as Lambert’s primary backup and completed 12-of-26 passes for 221 yards with 1 TD and two interceptions. His last action came in relief of Lambert in the Alabama game and he was 1-of-6 passing with two interception.
Lambert, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior transfer, has started every game for the Bulldogs this season. He has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,276 yards with 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But the Bulldogs’ offensive production is down this season. They’re fifth in the SEC in scoring at 33.1 points per game after averaging 41.3 last season and their total offense is down from 457 to 429 yards per game.
Georgia’s biggest deficiency is in the red zone. It is 12th in the league in red-zone offense while scoring 80.8 percent of the time it gets inside the 20 with just 13 TDs and eight field goals. A package where Bauta is a run threat but could also throw could possibly help the Bulldogs in such situations. The 6-3, 215-pound Bauta came out of Dwyer High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., with the nickname “Tim Tebow Jr.” because of his ability to run the football off the zone-read.