Carson Beck

Plenty Of Bite

By: Kipp Branch news services

The expectations are through the roof.

The Georgia Bulldogs finished (13-1) but came up short last season in their quest to become the first three-peat national champion in modern-day history.

A 63-3 Orange Bowl win over FSU showed the nation that Georgia was good enough to accomplish the 3-peat but the system in place did not allow it.

Now, we go to a 12-team playoff in 2024, and after 8 straight top three recruiting classes Georgia is poised to be in the mix for another run at a national championship.

The Bulldogs have been known for defense during this run the program has been on, but what goes unnoticed is how productive and explosive the UGA offense has been over the past two seasons.

It all starts at the QB position for UGA. ESPN has named Carson Beck as the best returning QB in the country for this fall.

Beck passed for 3,941 yards in 2023 and had a 72.4% completion percentage with 24 TD passes. Beck is a Heisman Trophy contender going into the 2024 season and if he can lead UGA back into the college football playoffs he may just bring the Heisman to UGA for the first time since 1982 when you know who won it.

He patiently waited his turn in Athens in an era of ‘I want to play now or transfer’. That mentality won over the UGA locker room last fall, and now the decision to return for 2024 has Beck leading a team that many will predict to win a national championship.

At running back UGA has a loaded room. Trevor Etienne comes in from Florida and the expectations are high for the junior with plenty of SEC game experience.

Roderick Robinson returns, and Branson Robinson is recovering from a knee injury.

Nate Frazier leads a trio of incoming first-year students that will re-stock the running back room.

At wide receiver Dillon Bell, Rara Thomas and Dominic Lovett will lead a deep room that still includes Arian Smith and some highly touted transfer portal additions.

This is a deep group that will give Beck plenty of options in the passing game. Georgia offense put up prolific numbers in 2023, and 2024 should be no different.

At Tight End Oscar Delp takes over for the legend of Brock Bowers in Athens. Delp is productive but has huge shoes to fill. He will be the next great UGA tight end.

The offensive line is a place UGA has recruited very well and will reload.

Former Camden County Wildcat Micah Morris will compete for a starting position in the spring and summer, and the UGA coaches are extremely high on former Brunswick High Pirate Jamal Meriweather, who bulked up thirty-five pounds during his redshirt season last fall.

Jared Wilson has all conference potential at center, Earnest Greene is a budding superstar at left tackle.

For all the hype Kirby Smart gets for recruiting defensive stars he also has developed a roster of studs on the offensive side of the ball.

Nobody manages a roster better than Kirby Smart, and now with the retirement of Nick Saban the best coach in the country resides in Athens, Georgia.

Repeat after me Kirby Smart is the best college football coach in the country, and he will have an offense in 2024 that will prove it. He might just maybe have his first Heisman Trophy winner as a head coach.

Beck-oned Starter

By: Robert Craft news services

Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton are very much in the competition for QB1.

We hear that Vandagriff’s performance on G-Day was hurt by a few dropped balls. What fans saw, however, was clear.

Carson Beck is Georgia’s starting quarterback this upcoming season!

That does not mean Beck will finish the season there. Nor does it mean Beck has the clutch gene (a la Stetson Bennett) and will be the one to lead Georgia to a third consecutive national championship.

There are necessary caveats. Beck benefited from playing with the first-team offense, which meant he had top skill-position receivers on the offensive line.

What I saw was Beck getting the first five of those drives, producing 24 points while he threw for 211 yards.

Vandagriff went in during the second half, and started off throwing an interception, then leading two more zero-point drives.

Vandagriff seemed a bit tentative on decision-making, which you can afford when you can run.

A strong QB knows that often it is best to get the ball out. Vandagriff’s running ability is alluring; it’s tempting to give him the benefit of the doubt, roll him out there and watch the fun.

At this point, however, Vandagriff’s upside seems outweighed by Beck’s skill set. The downfield throwing ability, his arm, the decision-making; it all looks like it’s there for Beck, and Vandagriff appears more as a high risk-high reward stock option.

If there is legitimate concern about Beck, it’s whether he has matured enough from his first two seasons, when by his own admission he needed to mature.

On the field, he didn’t know the system well enough and did not work hard enough to know it. Off the field, he missed a few too many classes or study halls.

Saturday’s game was also an example of how Beck has matured as a quarterback. He wasn’t out there showing off his arm. He was excelling in touch and timing passes. He was calm and confident in the pocket.

That does not mean Beck will prove the right choice in games to come. The flaws that were there a few years ago might not have gone away.

At some point, coaches must go with what you see. None of the three quarterbacks has proved themselves in a real game. Often coaches don’t know what they have until the games begin.

Georgia does have three good options. This is not 2015 when the team finished spring not sure the right guy was on campus and went out and imported its eventual starter.

This year is a classic, pre-portal-era quarterback situation where three veterans who waited their turn and developed are being considered.

Georgia, of all the luxuries it has these days, enjoys being able to pick a quarterback who has waited and developed.

And after the Spring Game, it seems pretty clear which one has developed the most.

QB1 Room

By: Robert Craft news services

It’s about that time in Athens, Ga. You can smell it in the air. We’re weeks away from the Georgia Bulldogs padding up for preseason camp.

For the first time in 41 years, Kirby Smart and company will be starting the 2022 NCAAF season as the defending national champions.

There are certainly a lot of questions to answer, and competitions to be had.

Losing a record 15 players to the NFL Draft creates uncertainty at some key positions.

However, several starters on offense, as well as a couple of key leaders on the defensive side of the football, will help ease any concerns.

I’ll take the time to provide a preview of the quarterback group in red and black.

Stetson Bennett returns after leading Georgia to the National Championship in 2021.

Starting 12 of 15 games including each of the last 11, Bennett threw for 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns on 185-of-287 passing.

There were times where he didn’t look great – turn on the tape from Florida (10-of-19, 161 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) or the SEC Championship Game against Alabama (29-of-48, 340 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions).

However, there were also times that he was spectacular. Bennett tied the program record for touchdowns in a single game with five scores in the first half alone against UAB.

The Blackshear, Ga. native threw three touchdowns over Kentucky in a top-15 SEC Game of the Week. He didn’t throw a single interception in that game or their game against Auburn.

Two touchdowns against Missouri and four against Georgia Tech with 255 yards in both contests helped the Bulldogs finish the regular season undefeated.

Then, of course, there were the Playoffs when Bennett earned Offensive MVP of the Orange Bowl against Michigan and the CFP Championship Game against Alabama, combining for 537 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

So, like lots of quarterbacks, Bennett has lots of good that comes with the occasional bad. You just have to be able to help him out and put him in good situations.

Because Bennett isn’t perfect and because he wasn’t the highest-rated recruit, some question Kirby Smart’s decision to stick with him.

Carson Beck seems to have solidified himself as the backup. Beck, a four-star and the No. 16 quarterback in the Class of 2020, threw for 274 yards during Georgia’s G-Day spring scrimmage.

Beck was awarded Mr. Football in the state of Florida for 2018 after leading Mandarin High School to a Class 8A state championship.

Brock Vandagriff also offers a talented option off the bench. A former five-star and the No. 4-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2021 from right down the road in Bogart, Ga.,

Vandagriff has the ability to make plays with both his arms and his legs. Georgia fans have been calling for a player like that for quite some time.

Finally, Gunner Stockton is the fresh face in the quarterback room. He’s just a freshman, don’t expect to see him often.

He’ll be busy learning the playbook and running the scout team.

Bennett elected to return for another year with the Bulldogs, which is a large reason why I rank the Dawg’s quarterback room the very best in the SEC.


By: Jeff Doke news services

On early signing day this year, the University of Georgia once again racked up some serious commitments.

The Dawgs are currently the #3 recruiting class for the year, behind Texas A&M and Alabama.

The majority of the top signees were on the defensive side of the ball – including the much-heralded Marvin Jones, Jr. – but arguably the top prospect was five-star in-state QB Gunner Stockton.

Normally, a top-rated signal-caller signing with your school would be cause for hope, if not outright celebration. For Georgia fans in the Kirby Smart era, it’s cause for measured concern.

The University of Georgia has had five 5-star quarterback commits in their locker room since Kirby Smart took over between the hedges in in December of 2015; Jacob Eason, Justin Fields, JT Daniels, Brock Vandagriff, and the previously mentioned Stockton.

For someone not familiar with UGA football, this statistic looks amazing. One would think that the offense over the last six seasons would have been stellar. While the Dawgs have put up decent offensive numbers – and have improved every year over the last three – they haven’t been coming from those highly-touted players.

To a large number of UGA fans, therein lies the greatest concern they have with Coach Smart.

The story of Jake Fromm is well known in Georgia lore. He took over for the injured Eason in 2017 and never looked back, taking the Dawgs to the National Championship Game.

Eason would transfer after that season. In 2018, Fromm held off the advances of Fields (and the cries from Dawg Nation to give Fields more snaps), contributing significantly to the latter’s transfer to Ohio State.

One four-star dispensing of two five-stars. One must wonder if history is repeating itself and must worry if it can repeat itself again in the future.

JT Daniels was supposed to be the starter this year. Coach Smart said it multiple times in the offseason, and the fact that Daniels was healthy had many mentioning him in early Heisman talk.

Alas, he didn’t stay healthy, and his status as starter was brief. Stetson Bennett’s performance has been well-documented for both good and bad throughout the year, and the fact that with Daniels and Vandagriff on the sidelines leads many to question Coach Smart’s decision process when it comes to his field generals.

Regardless of what happens in the Michigan matchup in the Orange Bowl and beyond, Coach Smart will have some big decisions to make for 2022.

With the arrival of Stockton, Daniels and Bennett still having a year of eligibility left, and Vandagriff and Carson Beck still on scholarship, the Georgia Quarterback room will be a crowded one.

With the NCAA installing a one-time limit on the transfer portal, and Bennett’s well-documented love of all things red & black, you would expect “The Mailman” and JT to still be around next year unless they decide to test the waters in the NFL draft.

Honestly, I don’t see either of them doing so after this season. Do Beck and Vandagriff hang around? Hard to say.

Don’t get me wrong; I love what Kirby Smart has done for football at UGA. I love what Stetson Bennett has done this year, save for the SEC Championship, obviously. The fact that our quarterback situation is an embarrassment of riches is a problem that 99.44% of all CFB programs would love to have.

Kirby Smart knows how to recruit quarterbacks. He has shown it multiple times in his tenure in the Classic City and continues to show it with the rising 2022 class of recruits.

To me, the big question that I really don’t want to ask is “why?”

And it’s a question I’m fine with not having the answer to.


The Quarterback Room

By: Robert Craft news services

The eighth ranked Florida Gators topped the #5 ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, taking control of the SEC East at the midway point in the 2020 season.

Florida was led by Senior quarterback Kyle Trask. Trask completed 30 of 43 passes for 474 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception. Trask became the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 4 plus touchdowns in 5 consecutive games.

Trask was a low three-star quarterback coming out of Manvel, Texas, where he played behind D’Eriq King. Trask’s composite score was 0.7984 and ranked the 2123rd player in the country.

Georgia’s starting quarterback Stetson Bennett was a high three star with a composite score of 0.8304. Bennett was replaced by four-star quarterback D’Wan Mathis, whose composite score was 0.8992.

After the game on Saturday, whining Bulldog fans were making excuses for the loss.

Some were saying ‘we would have won but we have five players out with injuries and a walk on quarterback’.

Another said I really miss Jake Fromm. I also heard Bennett could not start for Valdosta State University. Injuries are part of the game, but the quarterback position at Georgia is another issue.

Georgia’s quarterback issues started when Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State. The Georgia coaching staff selected Fromm over Fields and the rest is history. Fields is currently the front runner for the Heisman Trophy.

In January, Jamie Newman, the Wake Forest graduate transfer, announced he was transferring to Georgia. On September 2, Georgia’s projected starting quarterback opted out of the 2020 season.

Many speculated that five-star transfer from USC J.T. Daniels would assume the starting job. Daniels has yet to see the field due to medical clearance on his knee. Daniels was the 18th overall in the 2018 class and threw for 2,672 yards as a true freshman in 2018.

D’Wan Mathis started the opening game against Arkansas but was benched in the second half for former walk-on, Stetson Bennett. Bennett has done a very serviceable job for the Bulldogs leading them to victories over Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky. Bennett gives UGA the best chance to win.

Georgia’s quarterback problems can be traced to a couple factors: coaching, development and offensive systems.

Georgia’s offensive coordinators/quarterback coach under Kirby Smart have been Jim Chaney 2016-18, James Coley 2019 and Todd Monken 2020. Three coordinators in three years, how can a player be developed?

The product on the field in big games prove that UGA quarterbacks are not being developed or coached up to their true strengths.

Kirby Smart has brought in three different coordinators to run a spread offense in Athens, but Smart’s football DNA is to run the ball and play stout defense. The strength of this team is its defense and running the football.

However, it appears offenses have finally caught up to Georgia’s defense. LSU sliced and diced the Dawgs in last season’s SEC Championship Game and Alabama did the same three weeks ago.

Florida handed Georgia their second loss of the season by a score of 44-28.

The defeat also makes it very unlikely for the Bulldogs to claim its fourth straight SEC East title.

It also created questions at the quarterback position moving forward.  Who should start at quarterback: Bennett, Daniels, Mathis or Carson Beck (true freshman for Jacksonville)?

Wait until next year when another five star comes to Athens in Brock Vandagriff.

Bulldog fans, accept your loss to the better team last week and stop making excuses! It is embarrassing!