A ton of attention, and rightfully so, has been placed on which quarterback will start Georgia’s season opener against North Carolina.
In the bigger picture, it may not matter much at all.
It’s quite possible senior Greyson Lambert ends up being Georgia’s starter against the Tar Heels. It’s not out of the question that junior Brice Ramsey earns his first start. Considering that freshman Jacob Eason is still in the adjustment phase from high school to college, he might not be ready just yet to start and play a full game, especially one against a top-25 opponent.
But if Lambert and Ramsey are unable to run away with the job during the first month of the season, it won’t matter. As long as Eason is close to the other two in the quarterback meeting room, he’ll wind up receiving the most snaps by the end of the season.
Going with Lambert against North Carolina would make plenty of sense. Tasked to stay within the game plan, Lambert will get Georgia’s offense into the right plays the vast majority of the time. He brings 28 games of experience – 16 at Virginia and 12 at Georgia – and is the least prone to make a devastating mistake on the field.
But Lambert had three games in 2015 where he didn’t throw for 100 yards. He threw over 200 yards only three times. The fact that he won 10 games a year ago and isn’t getting all of the first-team reps says a lot. But he is probably the safest option of the three as he only had 2 interceptions last season.
Going with Ramsey against North Carolina would also make plenty of sense. You can argue that it’s Ramsey’s time to get a shot and that he’s had a good enough preseason to deserve the chance of leading Georgia’s offense. He has similar arm strength to Eason and can make every throw on the field with great velocity.
But Ramsey has been prone to mistakes in practice and in game situations, highlighted by a pick-six to Alabama’s Eddie Jackson last season. The worry of making a game-changing mistake is something Georgia’s coaches have to consider.
Going with Eason makes sense only if he is, without a doubt, the best quarterback on the roster entering the North Carolina game. Everyone knows he has the most potential. But Georgia doesn’t open against an inferior opponent in which all three quarterbacks could get equal playing time without worry of a loss.
As a result, Smart wasn’t looking to reveal any details on the subject.
"We’ve got a plan in our mind but that’s not for public opinion and not to share with North Carolina and everybody else in the world," Smart said. "So we’ll execute the plan we’ve got at hand and it’ll be what it’ll be."
To beat North Carolina, Georgia will need to run the ball well and hope the defense contains a Tar Heels’ balanced attack that features running back Elijah Hood. As for quarterback, the Bulldogs will need a steady hand that can make the occasional deep throw and move the chains. Either of the two veterans should be able to handle this challenge while Eason mixes in and earns some game reps.
Something else to consider is how this quarterback competition has been viewed as compared to last season’s. A season ago, Lambert came in and unseated the favorite in Ramsey, with that being viewed as a huge positive in terms of what Georgia had at quarterback.
With Lambert’s season being a self-described "rollercoaster," more people have taken a pessimistic outlook of the quarterback race this time around. You can’t help but wonder if this viewpoint is an overcompensation based on what transpired a year ago.
It’s natural for there to be so much attention on the quarterback position entering the season. But in the grand scheme of things, who starts the opener could wind up a footnote by the end of the season.
If Eason doesn’t win the job outright before the North Carolina, his development through September will be imperative to whether he’s able to take control of the job in the second month.
For now, Smart should be taken at his word that there hasn’t been much separation from the quarterbacks, even if he takes the competition down to two this week. And that appears to be how at least one major offensive contributor is looking at it, too.
"Honestly, I have no idea what's going on with the quarterbacks," center Brandon Kublanow said. "They all sound the same."