You remember a few weeks back when Zach Mettenberger had that little incident in Remerton that made some doubt his decision-making skills? The consensus that seemed to emerge across the message boards and blogs of Bulldog Nation soon after was that Mettenberger had essentially ceded the quarterback battle to Logan Gray and Aaron Murray. The thinking was that if Mark Richt and Mike Bobo are going to start an inexperienced quarterback during 2010 it s going to be the one who starts against Louisiana-Lafayette on September 4th. Heck, even before Mett was busted in
Baylor Lowndes County, 70% of Dawg Sports readers believed Aaron Murray had the upper hand among the likely contenders, edging out . . .um . . . Quincy Carter. [makes sad face, then sheds lone, angry tear of remembrance].
Of course, this was before Zach Mettenberger went 7-10 for 157 yards, 1 TD and no interceptions in last Saturday's first scrimmage of the spring. And before he went 10 of 16 with 2 touchdowns yesterday (h/t to David Hale for getting the numbers up lightning fast). Now scrimmage numbers are almost totally useless as a barometer of actual performance, for several reasons. One is that scrimmages involve contrived situations bearing little resemblance to game action. Coaches ask players to run plays that they know may or may not work, to attempt throws with low completion ratios just to test the coverage and tip off defenses to see how the line will respond to the perfect blitz. Quarterbacks also may have little or no freedom to check out of bad play calls, and may be playing behind a line with walkon legends Dweezil "Duct Tape" McGee manning the left tackle spot and Bubba "Baling Wire" Smith snapping the ball. Say it with me, scrimmage numbers are not game stats. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
But despite that, I think it's safe to say from an outsider's perspective that Zach Mettenberger isn't out of the quarterback race yet. Mark Richt even said so himself. So is it possible that Zach Mettenberger might start against South Carolina in week 2? I think it is. Remember 2006? Mark Richt played three different signalcallers in the opener against Western Kentucky. Then young Matt Stafford took the reins in Columbia for a banged up Joe Tereshinski, III. Stafford surrendered the job to Joe Cox in the midst of the Colorado game. It was only after the second half debacle against Tennessee that Matt Stafford locked down the job, if for no other reason than his status as the least spastic option.
Of course the coaches have been raving about Aaron Murray and how he already prepares like he's the starter and how Logan Gray knows the playbook better than the redshirt freshmen. And it's unlikely that the competition is really a dead heat. If Coach Richt had to lead the team onto the Sanford Stadium turf for a conference game tomorrow, I guarantee that he and Coach Bobo could make an informed decision about who'll take the snaps. They know enough that flipping a coin to break the tie wouldn't be necessary. But at this point they're not telling, and I don't blame them. Naming Joe Cox the prohibitive starter from day 1 did not work out so well last year, so taking a different approach is probably worth a shot. I'm not saying joe Cox had an absolute November meltdown against Kentucky because he was named the starter out of the gates 8 months earlier. But why risk it? Frankly, the pigskin capitalist in me sees no harm in fostering some good old competition for a little longer. Until somebody steps up and corners the market on touchdown passes.
All of which is to say that despite the prevailing wishful thinking that the coaches will name a starter and that guy will seize the reins (and hopefully be a little more consistent than Joe Cox), there's at least a modest chance that we may find ourselves 4 weeks into the 2010 campaign without a clearcut starter at quarterback. Sure Coach Richt says a depth chart will be slotted after the G-Day Game. But he could just as easily say that about the safeties or the tailbacks. Depth charts were made to be changed. There's no guarantee that Logan Gray or Aaron Murray will emerge the way redshirt freshman David Greene did against Arkansas State in 2001.
In other words, nobody is really out of this thing, except perhaps A.J. Harmon because of his high ankle sprain and general lack of quarterbacking experience. And I didn't like the way he throws the deep out route anyhow. And unless and until one of the three contenders has a gameday, live fire, honest-to-goodness SEC football coming out party, no one really will be out of contention. Just take heart in the fact that whoever eventually takes control will still be eligible in 2011, so we may be able to avoid this uncertainty next year. Until later . . .