Georgia Football: Mark Richt's Toughest Task This Spring

Andrew Hall@DudeYouCrazyCorrespondent IIIFebruary 27, 2015

Richt needs to find a quarterback.
Richt needs to find a quarterback.Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Evolved as college football may be, some things haven't changed. One of those pillars of continuity is the importance of the quarterback position. Put plainly: You still need a solid quarterback to be successful.

Unfortunately for the Georgia Bulldogs, they've somehow managed to find poverty in their abundance.

There's an old football mantra that says teams who claim to have two quarterbacks really don't have one quarterback. If that's true, then what do teams with three quarterbacks have?

The short answer: a problem.

The slightly longer answer for Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt: a tough task that must be tackled this spring.

Richt appeared on the SEC Network's Paul Finebaum Show earlier this week. During the segment, Finebaum mistakenly referred to former Georgia starter Hutson Mason as "Hunter," but Richt fumbled his way through the 2015 depth chart with equally unconvincing posturing.

After listing the parties contending for the starting spot, Richt concluded (video above), "We've got three guys right now that are on scholarship that are going to be battling away for that job. I don't really see a front-runner right now."

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Some of that inexact prognostication was likely coy coachspeak. But there's some truth to the notion that everyone playing the quarterback position at Georgia is in contention for the job.

Granted, each player brings something different to the table.

Faton Bauta, a junior in 2015, is the most agile and mobile option. Brice Ramsey, a rising sophomore, has the biggest arm. Jacob Park, who will be a freshman, may be the most versatile of the three potential starters.

Brice Ramsey was the top backup in 2014.
Brice Ramsey was the top backup in 2014.David Stephenson/Associated Press

But these traits aren't newfound intricacies and shouldn't require too much further evaluation from Richt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

After all, Bauta, Ramsey and Park all enrolled early as freshmen and each player took a redshirt season. In total, the three signal-callers have been enrolled at the university for 15 combined semesters (not including summers).

So while Georgia is looking for a "new" starter to replace Mason, those vying for the coveted spot as top Dawg aren't new themselves.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Ramsey is the man for the job. Thanks to a cannon-like arm, he's also the likeliest to shake the "system quarterback" label that hung over Mason.

But when Mason went down with an injury in the Belk Bowl, the transfer of power was hardly that of a Hollywood production. Ramsey completed just four of nine passes and tossed an interception while generally resembling a frazzled Matt Saracen thrust prematurely into action in Friday Night Lights. 

It wasn't the script that Bulldog fans had envisioned.

But it's still telling that it was his name called and not Bauta's. Even more indicative of Ramsey's front-runner status is the fact that Bauta, who arrived on campus in January of 2012, has attempted just five career passes.

Meanwhile, Park remains an unknown quantity despite rave reviews from his season as the scout squad's quarterback. As former Bulldog defensive back Damian Swann told Gentry Estes of Dawgs247, "The kid has a bright future, athletic, strong arm, can make every throw."

But the time for hypothesizing and passive conjecture is drawing to a close for Richt and fans alike.

Though open competition should foster improvement for Ramsey, Bauta and Park, it's not like the trio hasn't already had an opportunity to demonstrate value. And to be fair, it's not necessarily true that they've failed to do so.

But the need for differentiation is urgent and ultimately the decision-making process will fall on Richt and Schottenheimer. Their work is cut out for them—even schematically.

Even if the talent level between the three quarterbacks is equal, some delineation needs to be made based on playing style.

Ramsey seems best suited for a big-play, pro-style offense given his arm strength and pocket presence. But is that what Georgia wants? It's what the Bulldogs had with Matthew Stafford and later Aaron Murray. However, neither player won an SEC Championship.

Bauta celebrates a win.
Bauta celebrates a win.Dave Tulis/Associated Press

Recently, Georgia hasn't placed a large emphasis on quarterback mobility. Though Murray was more adept at running than he was given credit for, Mason's scrambles were more recognizable for their awkward slides than their elusiveness.

One would think Bauta, a dual-threat commodity, was recruited for a reason. If Georgia wants to stay run-heavy and explore read-option attacks, he could be the man.

And if Park really can do a little bit of everything, then perhaps his versatility will be valuable enough to negate his youth.

In any event, Georgia must leave spring practice with one starting quarterback—not three. If Richt and Schottenheimer fail to prioritize skill sets and evaluate players with conviction, offseason development of the offense will be stunted.

That could be a bad thing for Schottenheimer and a worse thing for Richt, who persuaded the athletic department into spending big dollars on Schottenheimer and other assistants.

If Richt doesn't find a winning passer, winning may pass him by.

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