It’s not the popular choice.
But that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong choice.
When Georgia kicks its season off against North Carolina on Saturday at the Georgia Dome, Greyson Lambert will once again start at quarterback.
Judging by the response on social media, quite a few fans are perplexed at this decision. It didn’t help matters that true freshman Jacob Eason, the fan-favorite five-star recruit from Lake Stevens, Washington, took the majority of the first-team reps at practice for nearly two weeks, which gave the public and even his own teammates the indication that he would get the nod.
With Eason getting his shot at leading the offense for a substantial period of time, he was able to put forth his best opportunity to show he can run the show. He already has the physical make-up of being a great quarterback and has to catch up mentally before it all comes together.
The fact that Eason pushed a returning starter this deep in a position battle is evident that potential exists for a great player to eventually emerge for this Georgia program.
But what was relayed during the middle of the preseason remains true at this time: Eason just isn’t ready yet.
He will be eventually, however.
It could happen after the first month of the season. It may not happen until toward the end of the season. But the likely conclusion Georgia’s coaching staff reached is it’s a very dangerous thing to go with a true freshman quarterback, especially in the SEC, and especially with a daunting first month’s schedule that includes three games away from Sanford Stadium (vs. No. 22 North Carolina at the Georgia Dome, at Missouri and at No. 11 Mississippi).
And after those four games, Georgia hosts No. 9 Tennessee in Athens on Oct. 1. You can bet head coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney would prefer to be in the best position for its team to win than to worry about any potential mistakes or mishaps that could occur.
Lambert is the safe option to start the season with. While he hasn’t been spectacular in his collegiate career, he’s appeared in a total of 31 games at both Virginia and Georgia. He started 12 games, winning 10 in 2015. He only threw 2 interceptions and his decision-making improved tremendously over the last half of the season.
It may still be a tough sell to some. But perhaps Smart and Chaney know a thing or two about football.
While Lambert may not light up the stat sheet, he’s capable of making the right decisions at the line of scrimmage and moving the offense down the field. The risk, at least at the start of the season, isn’t as great as it would be with Eason, even with all of the accolades attached to his name.
Now, Eason figures to play, even with Lambert getting the nod in the opener. He’ll surely get his shot at game action early this season. There is no substitute for game experience and Eason will need it if he’s going to develop into the quarterback he can one day be.
What’s interesting is that after last Saturday’s final preseason practice, the general feeling around the program was that Eason was the front-runner to start. Whatever discussions took place on Sunday, an off day for the players but a critical day for the coaching staff, had Georgia go in a different direction.
In hindsight, was it designed for Eason to get those first-team reps in preparation that he’d play off the bench? Was Eason unable to take in the game plan the way the coaches expected, even if he continued to perform well at practice? Or did the coaching staff get cold feet and elect to go with experience over youth?
Those questions remain unanswered.
But whatever the answers may be, Lambert will begin this season where he left last year’s off – as Georgia’s starting quarterback.