Greyson Lambert is still Georgia’s starting quarterback.
At least for the season opener.
The Bulldogs announced Thursday that Lambert, a fifth-year senior who started all but one game a year ago, remains the No. 1 quarterback heading into No. 18 Georgia’s first game against No. 22 North Carolina.
Lambert got the nod for Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta over Jacob Eason, a touted freshman that Georgia fans are clamoring to see — especially after the team’s uninspiring play at quarterback in 2015.
Even though Lambert completed more than 63 percent of his passes and set a school record with just two picks in 256 throws, he did little to help the offense in Georgia’s biggest games. Most notably, he completed only 10 of 24 passes for 86 yards with an interception in a blowout loss to eventual national champion Alabama.
Former coach Mark Richt finally made the ill-fated decision to bench Lambert for the annual showdown against Florida. Third-stringer Faton Bauta was picked off four times by the Gators in what would be the only start of his Georgia career, a 27-3 loss that helped seal Richt’s fate.
Even though Lambert reclaimed the starting job and the Bulldogs went on to finish 10-3, Richt was fired after the final regular-season game. Eason, a native of Lake Stevens, Washington, hinted that he might consider another school if Richt was dumped, but the youngster stuck by his commitment to the Bulldogs — even graduating from high school early so he could enroll at Georgia before spring practice.
New coach Kirby Smart had declined earlier in the week to name a starter, only saying that junior Brice Ramsey was no longer in the running. Both Lambert and Eason have been working with the first team and it seems only a matter of time before Eason is given the job.
Smart insisted he would have no problem going with a freshman at the most crucial position on the field.
“We’re going to play the guy who gives us the best opportunity to win,” Smart said. “We’ve stood firm on that the whole way through and whoever that is — I have no reservations about a guy’s age. If you’re old enough to play, then you’re old enough to start. If you’re good enough to play, then you’re good enough to start. It comes down to what’s the best opportunity for us. It’s not about the age factor.”
Smart was asked about the possibility of using two quarterbacks.
“First thing we have to do is figure out who’s taking the first snap before we worry about the next guy coming in,” he said. “Continue getting those guys reps and get both of them ready to play. That’s the plan.”
Smart has been impressed with Eason’s play in practice.
But in the end, much like his mentor Nick Saban, the new Georgia coach decided to go with more experienced quarterback in the first game.
“You have to be objective about the whole process,” said Smart, who was Alabama’s longtime defensive coordinator under Saban. “I think that’s the hardest part being head coach is analyzing every play. Did the guy do what he was supposed to do to give us a chance to have a successful play? And that’s not normal for me, that’s not where I’ve been before, so now that you delve in that area, you sit there and you try to make the best decision for the team, and that’s ultimately what these things come down to.”
The quarterback situation has been a leading topic on campus during preseason practice.
Receiver Terry Godwin said he’s had random students asking him for inside information.
“Last week, I was in class and a guy leaned over to my desk and was like, ‘Who’s going to start at quarterback?'” Godwin said with a smile.
He insisted that all the questions and interest wasn’t a distraction to the Bulldogs.
“We know coach is going to make the right decision to put the best guy back there,” Godwin said. “We’re going to have confidence in him — whoever it is.”
AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org