Spring is a time of hope, renewal and new beginnings. But who needs any of that crap when you have back-to-back national titles?
Georgia football wrapped up its spring practice with the annual G-Day scrimmage Saturday. I like to live by the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and there hasn’t been an awful lot broke in the last two seasons. But the natural cycle of college football means we’ll have to say goodbye to some of our favorite players every year. This time, a lot of those dudes happened to be multiple national champions.
There were a lot of new names on the field Saturday—such as Boom, the newly-christened Uga XI—and a lot of old names we’ve only heard in the copious garbage time of the past two years. As the ghost of Larry Munson likes to remind us before every game at Sanford Stadium, “a new breed of Bulldog stands ready to take the field of battle.” And thanks to Kirby Smart’s recruiting machine, they look just as nasty as the last batch.
Plenty of spots are open for newcomers, but this spring, all eyes have been on the quarterbacks. We’ve finally entered the “life after Stetson Bennett” era of Georgia football. (Which is weird, because many of us spent half his tenure hoping the next week would begin that era.) Barring some kind of transfer portal insanity—more on that soon—the heir apparent will be one of Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff or Gunner Stockton.
Beck, a rising junior from Jacksonville, entered the spring with a leg up. He served as Bennett’s understudy last season and was even briefly No. 2 on the depth chart ahead of Bennett early in 2021, when JT Daniels held the reins. He’s the more experienced of the bunch, and it showed during G-Day, when he completed 15 of 22 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown. He seemed to have a good connection with Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey, who will be the top targets for whoever wins the job, and worked with the first-team offense most of the day.
Vandagriff, a rising sophomore from Bogart and a former five-star recruit, is sort of like a souped-up Bennett. He has the legs to scramble well and the eyes to know when he should. He isn’t as good of a passer as Beck at this stage in his development, but his athleticism gives the offense something it doesn’t have with Beck. If you want the smoothest transition stylistically from last year, Vandagriff would be the guy.
Stockton, who redshirted last year, is another Georgia kid from up in Tiger. Many see him as an eventual starter. He is close with new/old offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, having committed to South Carolina when Bobo was the OC there, only to decommit and commit to the Dawgs when Bobo left. He is the most raw of the trio, and the least likely to get the job this season.
We only get to see a single scrimmage, whereas the coaches get 15 practices to make spring evaluations. But if G-Day was any indication, it’s Beck, and it’s not close. The offense runs more smoothly and with more precision when Beck is in the game. He’s also the safer option, which we all know Kirby loves.
Smart continues to be noncommittal about who the No. 1 QB is, likely in the hope that the No. 2 doesn’t hop in the transfer portal. But that may be a moot point by the time you read this, as the decision could be made for Kirby. The transfer portal window opened on Saturday. Defensive tackle Bear Alexander, who nabbed two sacks in the national championship and was expected to play a big role this year, put his name in hours before G-Day. There is a good possibility that by the time this hits newsstands one of the quarterbacks—most likely Vandagriff, if I had to guess—will see which way the wind is blowing and decide to seek a new opportunity.
That’s just how college football works now. There will be big changes every offseason. A lot of them. We know it, Kirby knows it, and the players know it. The reason we’ve won the way we’ve won these past two years is because of the things that stay the same, regardless of who’s quarterback: a deep, talented roster built by the UGA recruiting machine and some of the best coaches in the country, especially on defense.
At this point, after watching Bennett win two national titles, I’m giving Kirby the benefit of the doubt when choosing quarterbacks. No matter who Kirby chooses to start under center, I’m riding with them, to Threepeat or bust.
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