The Georgia Bulldogs just completed another magical run to a second straight National Championship. It’s incredible what Kirby Smart has already been able to accomplish in Athens, and it deserves to be celebrated. Unfortunately, there is no time to be complacent for college football coaches. The best in the business are always looking towards next year, and Smart has a lot of things to figure out before the start of the 2023 season, beginning at quarterback.
Stetson Bennett will leave Georgia as the most decorated player in program history. He was a Heisman finalist and led the Bulldogs to back-to-back National Championships. Now, Kirby Smart is tasked with finding his replacement.
“We’ve got some good quarterbacks in there. We got one that took a black jersey off and took hits all week so he could be Max [Duggan]. Gunner Stockton said, ‘Coach, take my shirt off. I’ll take the hits,’” Smart said, via 247 Sports. “Brock Vandagriff is down there learning all year. Carson Beck got a lot of playing time and has a lot of composure to come back and be able to play.
“Those three guys will get to battle it out, and they’ll learn a lot.”
Most assume Carson Beck will get the first crack as the starting QB next season. The former four-star recruit served as Bennett’s backup and played well in the seven games he was called to action, completing an exceptional 74.3% of his passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns compared to no interceptions. Beck even got some run in the National Title game against TCU, going 2/3 for 31 yards through the air.
In limited action, Beck looked like he has what it takes to be the next starting quarterback at the University of Georgia, but he does have some stiff competition that has to smell blood in the water with Bennet now headed to the NFL. Brock Vandagriff is a former five-star recruit that looks the part. He’s a big boy that can move, who many thought would transfer after being named the third-string quarterback in 2022. However, Smart has been clear the starting quarterback job is up for grabs heading into next season, and Vandagriff believes he could be the guy. He also values the experience he is gaining with Todd Monken as his offensive coordinator.
“I’ve learned more football in two years from him than I’ve probably learned my whole life,” Vandagriff said, via The Athletic. “In high school, I was just throwing it to the open guy and who I thought was going to be open pre-snap and stuff. It’s just so many different levels I’ve learned from coach Monken. There’s like a different checklist that goes through each play; there’s five or six different things you have to do before you even snap the ball. Coach Monken is just a great coach, and he’s good to be around, he’s great to be around. So I’d say that’s something that probably keeps it all together.”
There’s also Gunner Stockton, who joined the team as part of the 2022 class. Not many people are talking about him, but he was a four-star recruit, and the competition is wide open. Stockton has many similar traits to Stetson Bennett. He’s about six feet tall with deceptive athleticism, which allows him to extend plays and impact the game with designed runs. Stockton is probably the least likely of this group to be named next year’s starter, but then again, nobody expected Bennett to run away with the starting job two years ago and win back-to-back National Championships.
Fortunately, for Georgia fans, the offense is in good hands. Todd Monken is one of the brightest offensive minds in college football, and all three of these quarterback candidates are oozing with talent. For fans of other teams in the SEC, they shouldn’t be expecting a drop-off in play from the Bulldogs. Georgia is returning a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, and they shouldn’t have any problem figuring out the quarterback situation. The Bulldogs will be the favorites to win the National Title again, aiming to become the first team in college football history to three-peat.
Photo: John Cordes/Icon Sportswire