Last month we took a quick look at the list of visitors slated to be in Athens for the Georgia/Auburn game, a game which really could not have turned out much better for Georgia fans. Seriously, short of the NCAA sending a representative into the Auburn lockerroom with a formal notice that Danny Sheridan's friendly bagman had come forward and would be doing a live postgame Q&A on the corner of Baxter and Lumpkin, it was pretty much all aces.
Such efforts do not always guarantee recruiting success. The commitment of uber-recruit Keith Marshall notwithstanding, we still have a lot of ground to make up with a lot of prospects, many of whom we'll never really get back in it for. But this year's edition of the Georgia Bulldogs opened some eyes down the stretch, answered some questions, and bolstered some relationships. That's what recruiting is all about, after all. Palm Beach Gardens (Dwyer H.S.) quarterback Faton Bauta exemplified this when he chose Georgia after visiting for the Auburn game, declining competing offers from Boston College, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Louisville, Maryland, Utah, and West Virginia.
As you could guess from that power-packed offer list, Bauta is not the kind of guy who single-handedly lifts a recruiting class. Rivals rates him a 3 star prospect, the #10 dual-threat quarterback in America, and the 65th best prospect in the state of Florida. Scout also pegs him a 3 star prospect and the #47 quarterback recruit in the land. Part of the reason Faton hasn't really gotten a lot of attention is that he hasn't been in a position for recruiting analysts and coaches to find him until recently. He transferred to Sunshine State powerhouse Dwyer from New York, where he was an all-state linebacker selection as a junior, albeit against much weaker competition. Bauta finished his senior season throwing for 1432 yards and 17 touchdowns versus 5 interceptions, and rushed 159 times for 779 yards and 8 touchdowns. Those aren't particularly gaudy numbers, especially on a team sporting a 12-2 record. Dwyer's season ended last week in a wild game which included a tremendous performance by Faton Bauta, who rushed 24 times for over 160 yards on the night.
Bauta made clear to the schools recruiting him that he was willing to consider playing other positions, but that he really wanted a shot at quarterback. The fact that he has now committed to the University of Georgia means, I think, that Mark Richt and Mike Bobo convinced him that he will get a chance to play quarterback. Again, relationships.
There has been some sort of foolishness going around about Bauta being "the next Tim Tebow." This is hogwash, for a couple of reasons. For one, I think Bauta has better touch with the football now than Tim Tebow did at as a senior in high school, though he doesn't have the same arm strength. But more importantly, one must remember that Tim Tebow would not have been Tim Tebow had he played for Pete Carroll, Mark Richt, Bob Stoops, or any number of other very successful coaches who do not run a system conducive to his talents. Tim Tebow the football player resulted from the fortuitous combination of a talented player playing in a system which used his talents to their absolute maximum effect. Expecting anything like that from any other high school football player is just not reasonable.
To the tape. First Bauta's junior highlights, from Poly Prep Country Day School in New York:
If I'm being critical, Bauta's throwing motion is a little loopy and way too long. It's going to be a challenge for him to get the ball out quicker, a challenge that's not optional at the collegiate level. While his footwork is pretty good, he does carry the ball a bit low in his drop back, and launches off his back foot several times in these highlights. In short, Bauta's quarterback fundamentals are just not where they need to be. This is not terribly worrisome because, whatever faults Bulldog fans may believe he has as a playcaller, Mike Bobo teaches the fundamentals of the quarterback position about as well as anyone at any level. I don't think that Bauta is ever going to be Matt Stafford or Matt Barkley, polished pro-style passers with excellent mechanics.
But he can be something different, a dual threat quarterback who is actually a duel threat, rather than just a runner who takes the snap. Bauta shows real flashes running the ball in these highlights. He doesn't have the wheels of a pre-knee injury Robert Griffin, III, or young Michael Vick. He's fairly quick, fairly elusive, but he's not running any sub 4.4. forties. At 6'3, 225 pounds he doesn't have to. He's a load to bring down, and though some of those holes were big enough for my grandmother to gain 5 yards, you have to respect Bauta's instincts as a runner. He sees openings and gets the heck through them. That's an important skill.
For what it's worth, Mike Bobo has occasionally run some read option plays out of the shotgun at Georgia. Matt Stafford took one for a long touchdown against Georgia Tech, as a matter of fact. But I don't anticipate that he's going to go to some sort of spread option attack to make use of Bauta's talents. In the end, I anticipate that the Dwyer quarterback spends some time buried on the depth chart at QB before eventually moving to another position, perhaps linebacker. It wouldn't be unreasonable to imagine Bauta getting to the size of a Jarvis Jones (6'3, 240-245) and playing either inside or outside linebacker in the 3-4. He could also do some damage as a fullback/H-Back assuming his blocking and receiving skills fit the bill.
One intangible that doesn't show up on the recruiting site profiles is that Bauta is actually the youngest of five brothers. All of his older brothers have played Division I football. That's a built-in support system of mentors who have been there and know what it takes to play college football. I'm also assuming that as the youngest in that crowd (and assuming his older brothers are anything like mine), Faton Bauta was probably tougher by age 14 than many black bears and most coyotes. Also, I anticipate that Verne Lundquist will pronounce his name at least 5 different ways before halftime of his first action on a CBS broadcast, which is something to look forward to ("Fashion Buddha on the tackle! How! Do! You! Do !?!"). Welcome to Bulldog Nation, Faton. And . .