What else to do in June but lose our collective heads over the addition of a reserve quarterback? There haven’t been so many “but what does it meeeeeean?” takes since the final scene of Mad Men.
I get it – Georgia’s quarterback situation is as unsettled as it’s been since 2006, and there isn’t a first-round draft pick waiting in the wings (until next season, anyway.) The 2015 starter has been fretted about and over-analyzed since the bowl game ended, and adding another variable at this late hour has only added to the uncertainty. The reaction has ranged from panic to indifference, and it boils down to (in order of least plausible):
- The QB situation is so dire that Georgia is desperately trolling the graduate transfer pool to find their 2015 starter.
- Lambert is being brought in as a hedge against another quarterback transferring.
- Georgia’s just trying to build their quarterback depth – didn’t you see what happened to Ohio State last year?
The first reaction is a byproduct of Georgia not only speaking with Lambert but with Everett Golson also. Why is Georgia so intent on adding a quarterback? What’s wrong with the guys in the system? That leads to the second reaction. Is someone leaving? We’ve all heard the chatter, and we know that the depth chart only gets more crowded next season. But we’re not in the business of pushing people out the door, so we’ll take the roster as-is.
That leaves the depth angle, and it’s where most people seem to be landing. We know Ohio State had to go three deep to win the national title, and their depth was exceptional. Not many (if any) programs have that kind of quarterback depth, and we’re not suggesting that Lambert puts Georgia in that league. But it does give the staff some options, and – for better or worse – he is now the only quarterback on Georgia’s roster with starting experience for a BCS conference program.
Lambert’s transfer gives Georgia six quarterbacks. Lambert joins Park, Bauta, and Ramsey. Sam Vaughn, a one-time Georgetown commitment, walked on and redshirted last season. Georgia will add another walk-on this year in Californian Nick Robinson who had a couple of mid-major offers. Vaughn and Robinson won’t figure into the starting job, but Georgia will have plenty of arms for practice and scout team work. This isn’t 1998. The expectation isn’t that Lambert will leapfrog to the top of the depth chart, nor is there the pressure and need for him to do so. That’s a good thing – Lambert won’t arrive at Georgia until July 13th, and someone showing up less than a month before camp opens shouldn’t be counted on as an immediate contributor.
We’re getting some good insights from the Virginia crowd about what to expect from Lambert. Good size, capable arm, but a tendency for poor decisions that lead to crippling turnovers. He earned the starting job but then lost it – not encouraging for anyone expecting Lambert to grab the UGA starting job. If that’s the bar you’ve set for this transfer or what you think Georgia needs, you’re likely to be disappointed.
That said, the Georgia starting job is still up for grabs, and Lambert will be given as much of a shot as the others. Again, he’s not going to have much time to get up to speed, but all of the quarterbacks are still learning the system of first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
So why Georgia? Though the starting job is nominally open, a newcomer with Lambert’s track record isn’t likely to come in and claim the job in Athens. Lambert also had interest from Florida, though it’s not a given that he’d start there either. He’d be nearly a sure thing to start for an FCS or Sun Belt-level program. There were still a couple of things in Georgia’s favor.
Lambert is a southeast Georgia native who played his high school ball for Wayne County. The message boards are all over reports that his girlfriend attends Georgia. So at the very least, he has his undergraduate degree from Virginia and can earn a graduate degree in two years while finishing out his career much closer to home. But if Lambert wants to make the most of his final two seasons, there’s a history with he and Mark Richt.
Lambert was a 3* prospect in the 2012 class. He had offers from Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina, and, among others, Georgia. The Dawgs eventually went with Faton Bauta in 2012, but there were several factors that made Lambert consider Georgia’s offer. First was the style of offense. “I like all the schools with pro-style offenses,” he said. “Basically, I could see myself playing in that offense.” Second was Georgia’s success developing quarterbacks. “I’m looking at player and quarterback development in all the schools that have offered me and definitely Georgia is right up there at the top, especially with Matthew Stafford going #1 overall in the draft,” he explained.
Richt only strengthened Georgia’s pro-style identity with the addition of Schottenheimer. And if Lambert was frustrated by the Virginia offense and his development there, it makes sense to turn to a coach and a program whose quarterback development Lambert has held in high esteem since he was a prospect. Whether Lambert can flourish and develop under Richt or make a dent in the depth chart is yet to be seen. It would be nice, but it’s not a make-or-break issue for the 2015 season.
What interests me most is that this is one of Schottenheimer’s first public stamps on the program. Even if you accept the coaches’ explanation that they’re satisfied with the rest of the quarterback depth chart, they entertained two graduate transfers and eventually landed one. It’s fairly low-risk; if Lambert doesn’t develop into a starter, he’s another arm in practice for the next two seasons. The only negative outcome would be if this chain of events leads to the departure of someone who wasn’t already halfway out the door. And if Richt and/or Schottenheimer can improve Lambert’s game, all the better for Georgia.