ATHENS, Ga. — Carson Beck being named the starting quarterback at Georgia long has seemed just a formality, and now it is formal. The question now is who is the next man in.
Kirby Smart had resisted naming Beck the starter despite the junior being the primary backup to Stetson Bennett last year and Beck looking like the starter in Georgia’s spring game. But after the second preseason scrimmage on Saturday afternoon Smart, unprompted, announced the decision.
“Carson Beck is going to be our starting quarterback. He’s done the best job. We communicated that earlier in the week to the other quarterbacks, and kind of been operating that way,” Smart said. “The other guys have done a tremendous job of competing and they’re going to continue to do that. We haven’t said anything in terms of who the second quarterback is, or how those reps are divvied up. But Carson is ahead of those other guys.”
Beck played in seven games last year, including the national championship, all when the games had been put away. A more traditional pocket passer than Bennett, Beck looked good in that limited duty (26-for-35 for 404 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions), but the question will remain about he will do when games are in doubt. He’ll get his first shot in the season opener against UT Martin, the first of four straight home games to open the season.
Beck’s experience and knowledge of the offense were what put him ahead of Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton from the beginning of the competition. But he had to perform well enough in the spring and preseason to earn the job, and it said something about Beck’s play that Smart, rather than continue to play coy, was definitive about him being the starter.
“I have complete confidence we can win football games with both of those guys right now. It’s just Carson is ahead of them,” Smart said.
Smart said the coaches haven’t talked yet about whether multiple quarterbacks will play. That seems likely given the opening slate of opponents. Vandagriff, a sophomore, has a year of experience over Stockton and appeared in three games last year, throwing two incomplete passes.
But as Georgia moves from preseason mode to season mode, the coaches are giving Beck starter reps while keeping the competition going between the other two.
“We’ve got two really talented young quarterbacks who are coming along and getting better. And we want to continue to keep that growth going,” Smart said.” And the only way you keep that growth going is you continue to give those guys really quality reps.”
Lovett and Mews
Two speedy slot receivers continue to look impressive this preseason: Dominic Lovett, a transfer from Missouri, and Mekhi Mews, a walk-on who continues to have a chance to get significant snaps this season.
Lovett isn’t a surprise, as he was Missouri’s leading receiver last year. Mews had a good spring game but may have moved beyond the usual spring sensation. The only problem is there may not be enough snaps to go around.
“They’re more similar than they are different,” Smart said, including freshman Anthony Evans in their category as a slot-type receiver who has looked good. “I’m very pleased with where they are. We’ve got to continue to get more out of those guys.”
Two freshmen expected to play this season have hit early injury roadblocks.
Lawson Luckie, who looked impressive this spring and summer, is uncertain for the start of the season after an ankle injury in last week’s first scrimmage. Luckie’s injury is similar to one receiver Arian Smith had last year and he returned in about four weeks, but Smart said others have taken longer.
“I don’t know, it’ll be how he handles it, the pain tolerance and recovery,” Smart said.
Safety Joenel Aguero, who was getting a look at nickel back and safety as a backup, has a hamstring injury that Smart called Grade 1, and he didn’t know when Aguero would be back.
Some other injury updates:
• Inside linebacker Smael Mondon (foot) is still not practicing but has been able to do some running and some drill work.
• Tailback Kendall Milton (hamstring) is also not practicing yet but is making progress, hitting higher speeds in his runs.
• Tailback Branson Robinson (foot) got some carries in the scrimmage and looked good, per Smart, but Robinson was limited to non-contact.
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The main preseason battle has been the cornerback spot opposite Kamari Lassiter: Redshirt freshman Julian Humphrey got most of the work with the first team, with sophomores Nyland Green and Daylen Everette also getting looks.
“If nobody’s the clear-cut guy we’ll play multiple guys until we figure it out,” Smart said. “We’re waiting for someone to step up and take it.”
As expected, it appears Javon Bullard will start at safety, with Tykee Smith moving into the nickel back spot that Bullard started at last year. One way that could change is if another safety makes a push, and Dan Jackson (returning from last year’s foot injury) and sophomore JaCorey Thomas have gotten chances.
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Two projected starters both hurt their ankles in the scrimmage: Guard Xavier Truss and left tackle Earnest Greene both each able to return, although Greene ultimately was shut down.
“I don’t know if it was high ankle or low ankle, but he felt like it was hurt, came back and played, played in 10-11 plays, said it bothered him, and we shut him down,” Smart said.
Austin Blaske would be the most likely to step in for Greene at left tackle, and Blaske continued to get plenty of scrimmage reps at different spots.
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“This Scrimmage 2 was probably behind where we’ve been the last two years on Scrimmage 2. But a lot further than we were on Scrimmage 1,” Smart said. “We’ve got to secure some more spots, there are a couple spots that are up for grabs and really hone in on who our special teams and travel roster guys are going to be. We’re two weeks away from kickoff and not where we need to be, but we’re competing.”
(Top photo: Tony Walsh / Georgia Athletics)