Shot Callers

By: Colin Lacy news services

The Georgia/Florida game (or Florida/Georgia depending on which side you’re on), has been riddled with outstanding individual performances.

Many of these come from the quarterback from either side, so with that in mind, since both sides have a starting QB in their first year starting at their school, let’s dive into the signal callers for both sides.

Carson Beck: Georgia

Although Beck is not an unfamiliar name to Dawg fans, he is in his debut year as QB1 for the red and black.

Beck served as the backup for the last 2 years on the National Championship Georgia squads behind Stetson Bennett.

The Jacksonville, FL native will return home to start his first Geogia/Florida game after making twelve appearances from 2020 to 2022.

Through some competition in the pre-season with Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton, Beck came out of the 2023 pre-season camp with the starting nod from Head Coach Kirby Smart and hasn’t looked back.

Beck has accounted for at least 261 yards through the air in every game this year (season low of 261 coming his last outing against Vanderbilt) and topping the year with 389 passing yards in the dominant 51-13 victory against Kentucky.

Beck, the former Mandarin High School Mustang, will be playing just 20 miles north of his high school football stadium where he garnered a 4-star ranking from ESPN, and was named the Florida Offensive Player of the Year as a senior.

Big games and big moments have never been a problem for Beck, who most recently completed two of three passes in the National Championship game against TCU to cap off the back-to-back titles for UGA.

In his high school career, Carson led Mandarin to the first state championship in school history and just the second title by a Duval County public school when he threw for 329 yds and 5 touchdowns (one shy of a FHSAA record in a title game).

At the end of the day, through some scrutiny, Beck has led the Dawgs to remain #1 in the country and to a perfect 7-0 record (4-0 SEC) entering the “World’s Largest Cocktail Party”.

Graham Mertz: Florida

There are a lot of similarities between Carson Beck and Graham Mertz.

Mertz is also following a quarterback that is now on an NFL roster (Anthony Richardson served as the Indianapolis Colts starting quarterback before a shoulder injury has recently forced him out for the remainder of the year).

Both have worked through a ton of scrutiny at times from the outside noise.

There also is one glaring difference between the two…EXPERIENCE.

Gram Mertz transferred into Billy Napier’s Gators after four years at Wisconsin.

Mertz started every game for the Badgers for three years straight (32 consecutive starts from 2020-2022). He racked up over 5,400 yards through the air and 46 touchdowns for Wisconsin before former Head Coach Paul Chryst was let go.

Before heading to Madison in 2019, Mertz set the Kansas state high school record with 51 passing touchdowns as a senior in 2018.

This year, Mertz has tried to silence some of the nay-sayers with almost 2,000 passing yards, and an impressive 423 yards with 3 touchdowns through the air on the road in a much-needed victory over South Carolina last time out.

The Mertz family is no stranger to college athletics. It began with his father Ron playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1989-92. Then the legacy was passed to his two sisters who both played college hoops as Lauren took her talents to Kansas State and Mya laced up on the hardwood for Drake.

So, what does all this mean? First and foremost, you’ve got two big time competitors meeting in arguably the best rivalry in college football.

As it is in every college football game, the quarterback is going to be key in this Georgia/Florida (yes, again maybe Florida/Georgia depending on your side).

Especially with Brock Bowers out for this game for the Dawgs, and Florida riding the high of the victory over the Gamecocks, quarterbacks are going to be huge in this matchup.