It was only a spring game, but it's clear that Carson Beck is going to be QB1 in Athens
At times, I had to remind myself.
Oh, that’s not Stetson Bennett IV. That’s Carson Beck.
It’s easy to mistake Beck for Bennett. Watch the way that Beck sits in the pocket, scans his progressions and delivers a strike over the middle of the field and you’ll see what I mean. The poise, the touch, the skill … it’s all there.
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That’s why Beck is going to be Georgia’s starter in 2023.
I hear you, Brock Vandagriff fans. His combination of arm strength and mobility is super intriguing, and I too find myself wanting to see what he can look like with the keys to the Georgia offense, which should be a high-powered machine with Brock Bowers, Dominic Lovett and RaRa Thomas catching passes (Lawson Luckie also looks like he’s gonna be a thing). You see Vandagriff scramble when a play breaks down and you see exactly why the former 5-star quarterback is so highly regarded.
But at the same time, it’s hard to deny that Beck is further along as a passer. The ball comes out of their hands differently. Beck looks more comfortable working through the defense. Granted, it helped that the first-team offensive line looked dominant in the first half, but isn’t that we’ve come to expect in Athens?
Quarterback battles for a team with this much talent shouldn’t be decided based on who can execute best when the script breaks down. If that were the case, I’d be banging the drum for Vandagriff, even if it meant that we see a few frustrating throws like the one that was picked off late by Tykee Smith. On that play, Vandagriff had the time to make a play, and instead, he wasn’t on the same page as his receiver.
How many moments did Beck have on Saturday wherein we said that? Few, if any.
Sure, it’s a small sample size. It’s practice No. 15. It’s a scrimmage wherein quarterbacks aren’t live and the variables are controlled.
Kirby Smart was at the controls of that. Unlike some others, Smart wanted to send blitzes and see how his quarterbacks reacted. He evaluated their communication skills because in this version of the Georgia offense, there isn’t a ton of huddling. To the credit of Beck, Vandagriff and even Gunner Stockton, all appeared to be doing that at a level that Smart was satisfied with.
Actions speak a bit louder than words, though. Beck’s poise spoke volumes about his reported spring improvements. He has the all-important ability to keep his eyes downfield while sensing pressure. Watch someone like Stockton and you’ll see instances where he doesn’t sense backside pressure. Vandagriff has pocket presence, but he’s not always looking to throw like Beck.
Some would say that’s a knock on Beck and a point in favor of Vandagriff. Maybe it is. I’d instead say that Beck gives Georgia its best chance of being able to maximize the strength of its team. That is, the pass-catchers … especially Bowers.
If you didn’t know any better, you’d assume this was a replay of a Bennett-to-Bowers play from a year ago:
1️⃣9️⃣ ? 1️⃣9️⃣
Carson Beck with a nifty touch pass to Brock Bowers. Darris Smith was in coverage. pic.twitter.com/GPpiG6q9u5
— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) April 15, 2023
Nope. That’s Beck.
Beck looks like someone entering Year 4 in this offense because, well, he is. So what if he doesn’t have a start yet, or if his reps have been in garbage time? He still got to throw the ball 35 times last year, and he completed 74% of his passes for 8.9 yards per attempt. That was as the true backup, unlike a year earlier when he went from true backup to JT Daniels to being the guy who was surprisingly passed up on the depth chart by Bennett.
We know what happened after that.
What we don’t know is what it’ll look like with Bennett passing the torch to another signal-caller. It’s hard to imagine that his successor will struggle. We know the offensive line will be elite, we expect the pass-catchers to be among the nation’s best and even if you have some long-term questions about Bobo running the offense (like I do), you can still expect the Dawgs’ next signal-caller will have as favorable of surroundings as one can ask for.
Don’t get it twisted. Georgia isn’t in search for a game manager. Bennett, by the time his career finished, wasn’t that at all. He was a game-changer.
Beck has the best chance of being that game-changer, not the guy who has yet to complete a pass at the FBS level. That’s Vandagriff, who only got 3 pass attempts so far in his college career.
Say what you will about that, and say what you will about Smart not tipping his hand. Obviously. This isn’t his first QB battle rodeo. But it’s a bit more traditional than any he’s had in years past. It’s a bit of a throwback to see guys battling it out as former blue-chip recruits entering Year 3 and Year 4 in the system.
There’s no guarantee that it plays out that way into the fall, and I suppose there’s no guarantee that Smart sees this battle the way that I do. Lord knows he’s gone rogue before.
At this point, going with anybody other than Beck would be going rogue. He’s got everything Georgia needs in the post-Bennett world.
And soon, maybe Beck will follow in Bennett’s footsteps right up the championship stage.