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Georgia Football

Legge's Thoughts: Kirby Smart's Georgia Bulldogs Look the Part of a Champion... Again

April 16, 2023
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ATHENS - There was much to learn from watching Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, and the fact of the matter is that most of it was very, very good for UGA fans. I’m not sure how good that is for the rest of college football. 

This is a program that’s on full go - pushing the boundary of what it has ever been. The program is deep - pretty well three deep at each position. The program has very good high-level players - players like Brock Bowers and any number of defenders. 

But Saturday introduced a new mascot and likely a new quarterback. Kirby was less declarative that the program has an answer at starting quarterback. But it was pretty evident (perhaps not totally and clearly obvious) that Carson Beck had the best day. He had the most reps with the No. 1s and probably is not just in the lead to be the starting QB in the fall, but significantly in the lead. 



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It was less clear which quarterback was the second best on the day - Gunner Stockton or Brock Vandagriff. None of the three quarterbacks had great days statistically. There were some drops for Vandagriff the other two quarterbacks didn’t have to deal with. 

But all told, the offense just looked better when Beck was in there. We didn’t see a ton of the more well known running backs, so Saturday was a passing competition. That lack of running backs meant, for the most part a lack of quarterback run, which isn’t much of Beck’s game anyway. The offense started the day with Beck moving right down the field with a very nice pass to Brock Bowers. The Jacksonville native was off and running. 

“Carson is a lot more locked in than he was a year ago,” Bowers said. 

Beck was smooth. He was comfortable. He was steady. He didn’t seem to have any throws were you were wondering what’s he was doing with. On the sideline before one touchdown throw, a staffer said: “touchdown” two seconds before Beck threw the ball. They knew exactly what was coming. 

"I was really please with all three quarterbacks. We have three good quarterbacks. They can make the throws,” Kirby said after the event. "Carson has been in our system the longest. The key is they all get to develop. I can assure you there is no one in the country getting more reps than our guys because we had three deep this spring, and we will have four deep this fall. Some universities can't give (quarterbacks) the reps because they don't have the depth.”



 

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While it is true that Beck has been in the system the longest, it also looks like he’s just playing better right now than the other two, and it is that simple. 

The other thing that really caught my attention Saturday was how matter of fact Kirby was about where is program is: 

"I am excited," Kirby said. "We are not trying to be a one-hit wonder.”

Who is going to tell Kirby you are no longer eligible for one-hit wonder status after playing for the national title half of the last six years? LSU in 2019 was a one-hit wonder. Georgia is not at all in that situation. That LSU team was a matter of one of the best college and NFL quarterbacks of this century (yeah, I said it) throwing all over everyone - including Kirby. 

That wasn’t built… 2019 LSU just happened. Georgia has been built, and it is on firm footing. Georgia has three good signal callers who could start all over the league. But focusing on the quarterbacks in Athens gets away from the exact point, which is that UGA is built on a slew of players - not just one person. 

Bear Alexander, one person in this case, decided to release that he was leaving UGA two hours before the spring game - a sophomoric decision on when to release something that wasn’t a popular topic post game with his former teammates. He didn’t fit into what was going on at Georgia, and he left. 

A really talented defensive lineman left Georgia, where three defensive linemen are going to go in the first round of the NFL Draft in two years. And please save your criticisms of the transfer portal, NIL and “everything that’s wrong with college football.” That’s an already tired take. If transfers bother you don’t cheer for Stetson Bennett. 

The transfer portal simply revels the true nature of any given player. In Alexander’s case he’s betting he can benefit more from going away from the program that’s putting multiple defensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft. Perhaps critical thinking was not taught at the slew of high schools Alexander attended. 

Then again, the fate of Alexander, JT Daniels, Jacob Eason, etc, proves that Georgia’s program under Kirby isn’t at all about any one player. It is about the collection of players. 

If 1+1 = 3 (which it doesn’t; 1+1 = 2) Georgia is always going to be successful. Why? The fact of the matter is all of the moving parts in Athens are vastly (and by “vastly I mean beating TCU 65-7) better than any one part. 

Kelee Ringo had a great career at UGA. He would have had a great career nearly anywhere. In the 2000s he might have played for Urban Meyer; in the 2010s he might have played for Nick Saban. But he was at Georgia with Kirby, and Jordan Davis, Malaki Starks, Christopher Smith and others. And the collection of all of those players together on the field at once is the power Georgia has right now. 

This is 100% about recruiting. It is development, too, but you can’t develop someone who is not in your program - see Brent Cox. 

The rest of college football should at least be concerned with what happened Saturday in Athens. It looks like Georgia might be just as good as it was a season ago - when it went undefeated and won the national championship game by the largest margin ever for any bowl game ever. 

That’s what it looked like. 

"We should be good,” Kirby said Saturday. “We should be productive. We have good players. We have good coaches.”

100%. This is totally and completely true. Every single word of that statement is true. Now, other programs have those things, too. They do. There just aren’t a lot of those programs. 

Around the South in spring games: Clemson continues to struggle offensively. They don’t have much in the way of an offensive line (Clemson’s starting center missed the spring game to be in his brother’s wedding... I need to have power over my inlaws that like bride does). Have we yet learned that having at least a serviceable offensive line is mandatory if you want to be elite in college football? 



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We have learned that. Has Dabo? 

Tennessee, which took out the Taters in the Orange Bowl, had nearly 60,000 folks watch Nico Iamaleava and Joe Milton fight it out at Neyland. But scoring wasn’t a problem for the Vols a season ago. Will they get their defense together? We can’t know that for sure because a lot of Tennessee’s firepower at the skill spots on offense didn’t play in the game. 

Then Billy Napier’s Gators… yikes. It was bad. I mean, Clemson didn’t look good on offense - scoring only a couple touchdowns. But the Taters were running offensive circles around what the Gators put out there this week. 

I’m not sure Florida has a starting quarterback right now. Florida’s spring game was the lowest-scoring in school history. Y’all, Florida combined to put up 17 points. 17. New defensive coordinator Austin Armstong was caught on camera celebrating his side’s performance by what looked like him acting as if he were masterbaiting towards (or on) another staff member after the game. 

That’s how well things are going in Gainesville.

Then you’ve got UGA XI - Boom - already a crowd favorite. Little man wasn’t too eager to hit the turf at Sanford Stadium at first. The PA system at Georgia is very, very loud. I totally understand being scared half to death of that rattling sound if you’ve never heard it before. 

But for the most part when Boom got to the grass, and the PA wasn’t so loud he started frolicking around - No, not like the Florida defensive coordinator… it was more wholesome than that. He was playing around - Que was like… cool man, do your thing. I am about to hit that ice bag over there. Get me a Chick-fil-A sando when head my way. 

Boom is a beautiful animal up close. He’s young and happy. It was time for a change. UGA X had been in charge since 2015, and let me tell you anyone in the program that survived that year and has seen everything since deserves a break. 

2015 was not a normal year in Athens. Nearly a decade later that’s even more clear than it was at the time. UGA X leaves as the winningest mascot in Georgia history. We don’t know what the future holds, but Boom probably has a good chance to top that.



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