Georgia Football: Quarterback Play Is Offseason's Biggest Question Mark

Andrew Hall@DudeYouCrazyCorrespondent IIIJanuary 2, 2015

Georgia quarterback Brice Ramsey.
Georgia quarterback Brice Ramsey.David Stephenson/Associated Press

The Georgia Bulldogs set school records for points scored in 2014, but they may have a problem in 2015.

No, that problem won't be replacing Todd Gurley.  Nick Chubb has amazingly found a way to do that already.

The problem won't necessarily be replacing departed offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.  As tight ends coach John Lilly showed in the Belk Bowl, mirroring Bobo's success can be done.

The problem for Georgia—for the first time in half a decade—may come from the quarterback position, which will be the biggest question mark for this team heading into the offseason.

Though the 2014 offense was highlighted by a stout running game while fans inexplicably demanded more from fifth-year quarterback Hutson Mason, quarterback play for the Bulldogs was once again solid.  Mason finished the season ranked 11th in the nation in passer rating and eighth in completion percentage.  Along the way, he tossed 21 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.

That's not a bad effort in replacing a legend.

For the four previous seasons, Aaron Murray was at the helm, and all he did was shatter SEC career passing marks left and right while racking up 13,166 yards through the air and 137 total touchdowns.

For the last five years, steadiness has defined quarterback play for Georgia.  At this point, that's not exactly a sure thing for year six.

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Brice Ramsey, the heir apparent and apple of Bulldog Nation's eye even for much of this season, is the early leader to take over for Mason based on playing time in 2014.  Ramsey, who was regarded as the third-best pro-style quarterback in 2013's recruiting class (per 247Sports), has showed promise.  But he's also shown a tendency for ill-advised throws.

This year, Ramsey appeared in six games, throwing more than one pass on five occasions.  In those five games—blowout wins against the likes of Troy, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Charleston Southern and Louisville—he completed more than half his passes just twice.  And he was unimpressive in his longest and most significant stint at quarterback, in the bowl game against Louisville.

After Hutson Mason left the game with concussion-like symptoms, Ramsey took over.  His statistical line—four completions for 51 yards, no touchdowns and one interception on nine attempts—left much to be desired, but more nuanced concerns were also left.

His only pass of the first half was intercepted and squashed a drive that started with incredible field position at the Louisville 31-yard line.  A score there would have made the lead all but insurmountable at 27-7 heading into halftime.  Instead, he gave the ball back to the opposition.

Nick Chubb can put any quarterback in a position to succeed.
Nick Chubb can put any quarterback in a position to succeed.Nell Redmond/Associated Press

In the third quarter, Georgia's only score came off of a possession in which Chubb broke an 82-yard run.  To be sure, conservative play-calling had begun to set in, but Ramsey and the offense failed to string together consistent drives.

And on Georgia's two scoring drives of the fourth quarter—one resulting in a field goal and one yielding a touchdown—Ramsey attempted and completed just one total pass, a 14-yarder to Kenneth Townes.

It should be noted that Ramsey is green, and Lilly, who had been coaching tight ends and not quarterbacks like former offensive coordinator Bobo, was likely less familiar with Ramsey.  But Georgia's offense was noticeably less diverse when he came into the game.  Some of that was probably due to experience and familiarity, but some was likely due to Ramsey's tendency to throw into double coverage.

And if there's a bone to pick with Ramsey, that's where it's buried.  

His athleticism and capabilities as a passer are unquestioned.  His arm is stronger than any quarterback Georgia's had since Matthew Stafford.  But his decision-making against Louisville looked like that of a true freshman at the beginning of his debut campaign.  That's concerning seeing as Ramsey has been in Athens for two full years after enrolling a semester early in 2013 and redshirting.

And while mistakes may often plague inexperienced quarterbacks resigned to backup duty, that was not the case with Mason early in his career.  Mason played as a reserve as a true freshman and as a true sophomore.  He didn't throw an interception in any of his 47 pass attempts.  Ramsey has thrown three in just 39 attempts.

For a good portion of this season, fans clamored for Ramsey simply because he wasn't Mason.  In some regards, that sentiment was understandable.  After all, Mason wasn't a record-setting gunslinger like Murray.  From a skills standpoint, Ramsey fit that bill more closely.  

But the biggest flaw with Ramsey is that he's not Mason.  For his career, Mason averaged one interception per 62 attempts.  Right now, Ramsey's tossing one every 13 passes.

That's a small sample size and hardly the only statistic that matters, but for an offense that is likely to rely heavily on the ground game again in 2015, mistake-free passing will be at a premium.

With that in mind, the question is not necessarily if Ramsey can limit mistakes by improving over the offseason; it may actually be who can limit mistakes at the quarterback position for Georgia.

Faton Bauta plays with passion.
Faton Bauta plays with passion.Dave Tulis/Associated Press

Faton Bauta, who will be a redshirt junior in 2015, adds something of a dual-threat component to the quarterback position.  And Jacob Park has recently drawn praise for his performance while redshirting as a freshman this season.

As senior cornerback Damian Swann told Gentry Estes of 247Sports, Park has "got a bright future."  Swann went on to praise Park's arm strength and athleticism.

Georgia has—at least in theory—three viable options to step in next year, but Ramsey is the current favorite.  He needs to transition from a question mark to an exclamation point to hold onto the job.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com.

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