It appears Georgia could be altering its desired style of play from the quarterback position, with the presence of a true pocket passer fading in Athens.
Georgia’s coaching staff, now entering its second season at the helm after the departure of long-tenured head coach Mark Richt, has brought change to the program in numerous areas. Another one is apparent as head coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney have made their desires for a dual-threat signal caller quite obvious.
Shortly after assuming duties, Smart indicated the evolution of the collegiate game and that he is willing to make schematic changes if it results in team success.
"You do whatever you have to do to win the game," Smart said in January 2016. "If that becomes a dual-threat quarterback, then we cross that bridge when we come to it. I do think that creates challenges for the defense. If you find the right guy, which I agree with you there have been a lot of good ones to come out of this state, then you use that."
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Nearly 13 months after making that statement, it seems as if the Bulldogs have crossed that bridge.
Early on in the process of recruiting beyond 2017, Georgia placed a target on Heard County’s Emory Jones and Harrison’s Justin Fields. Those two highly-touted quarterback recruits have opted to land at Big Ten programs – Ohio State and Penn State, respectively – but Chaney’s pursuit hasn’t stopped there.
More recently, the Bulldogs have distributed six offers to undecided 2018 quarterback prospects, including Joe Milton out of Olympia (Fla.) High School on Feb. 25 and Dorian Thompson-Robinson out of Bishop Gorman (Nev.) High School on Feb. 28.
One of those offers was given to Louisiana product Justin Rogers, who visited with Chaney about a month ago and made his future plans behind center quite clear.
"Georgia is looking to move towards dual threats," Rogers said. "They could base their offense off of the things I’m capable of doing. I definitely have some interest in Georgia, and I like coach Chaney because he’s very honest and straightforward."
Georgia’s experiment of trying to implement the modern fad of running quarterbacks is in the works, but it will not likely be seen on the playing field for a few more seasons. The Bulldogs have two former high-profile pro-style quarterbacks – sophomore Jacob Eason and early enrollee Jake Fromm – behind center who they hope will coalesce with the veteran running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs have had success in the past with a dual-threat quarterback, despite only implementing one into its offense full-time in 2005.
Georgia was led by Shockley’s efforts to a 10-3 overall record, including the second and last SEC Championship victory under Richt, and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
From then on, Georgia reverted back to the favoritism of pocket passers as the likes of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray also had successful tenures in Athens. The desire by the current regime to change offensive style of play is a bit surprising, given that Chaney hasn’t had much exposure with working with a dual-threat quarterback, if at all. A majority of his success stems from working with Drew Brees at Purdue, who Chaney helped develop into an NFL Hall of Fame talent as a pocket passer.
One reason that Georgia may be looking in this direction is that Smart has seen first-hand that a dual-threat quarterback can be troublesome for an opposing defense. Smart spent eight seasons as the defensive coordinator at Alabama before returning to his alma mater, and the realization of the importance of a running element behind center may have come in his last game with the Crimson Tide.
During the 2016 National Championship, a game which Alabama won, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, venturing outside the pocket to complete a number of passes. In addition, Watson led the team in rushing with 73 yards en route to posting 40 offensive points.
Smart experienced similar troubles with Mississippi’s Chad Kelly and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs, and he now may be trying to create a different element for his own offense and draw comparable concerns for future opponents.