Down to the Wire

ATHENS – It was the biggest test to date for the three quarterbacks vying for Georgia's starting job.

But the performances were so strong across the board that head coach Mark Richt said even the officials walked away talking about how sharp the Bulldogs' passing game looked.

In all, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray and Logan Gray combined to connect on 65 percent of their throws during Georgia's second scrimmage of the spring, tossing four touchdown passes and leading the charge on a day that Richt said belonged to the offense.

"Today, you walk away feeling like, we're in good shape (at quarterback)," Richt said after Saturday's scrimmage.

That's good news for a unit that returns 10 starters, but will open the season with a quarterback who has never started a game in his career.

To this point, Richt has called the competition an even race, and that may still be the case for the most part with all three quarterbacks performing at a reasonably high level. In turn, none has firmly established himself at the front of the pack – with all three rotating evenly with the No. 1 offense throughout the spring – but that could soon change.

"We're trying not to (rank them) on a practice or a weekly basis," Richt said. "We're trying to go the whole spring and divide the reps as equally as we can. We know any given day a guy might be hot or might have a bad day. We don't want to make it a rollercoaster for them. But I think after 15 practices, we'll at least have a gauge of how we want to rack ‘em then."

Richt said after next week's G-Day game, he'll likely sit down with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and come up with a depth chart at the position so the three quarterbacks each have an idea of where they stand heading into summer conditioning and fall camp.

"We won't necessarily say, ‘This guy's the starter,' but we might give a 1-2-3 or we might give co-No. 1 and a two," Richt said. "I don't know what we'll do but at the end of spring, we'll give some kind of indication of where they'll stack up in the fall."

Even that won't necessarily mean a starter has been decided upon, Richt said. In fact, he doubts he'll be ready to name a full-fledged starter – just a leader in the race to win the job.

Just who that will be remains a mystery, Murray said. To this point, the reps have been split evenly and coaches aren't offering much in the way of feedback in terms of how one man compares to his competition.

That made Saturday's performances all that much more important, particularly given that Georgia is unlikely to unleash its full offensive repertoire in front of fans and cameras on G-Day.

"The two scrimmages were the big showcases of the spring," said Murray, who is 23-of-34 passing for 284 yards and two touchdowns in the team's two scrimmages thus far. "You can look at it as the practices were the quizzes and these two scrimmages were the tests, and I don't think it's final, G-Day you still have to go out there and ball out and have fun."

Murray was 13-of-19 passing for 159 yards and a touchdown Saturday, tossing one interception as well. The pick came on fourth down in the end zone after a long drive that Gray called one of the more impressive drives of the day.

It was Gray who got the most reps with the No. 1 offense, leading the first few drives of the day after spending the majority of his reps with the No. 2 offense during Georgia's first scrimmage. His numbers improved accordingly, completing 7-of-11 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown after a 6-for-14 performance with an interception a week earlier.

"I started off with our first unit and put together a good drive, went down and scored, so that was encouraging," Gray said. "I felt good. It was nice on the first drive getting some rhythm going and completing some balls, and we kept it going throughout."

Mettenberger also turned in a second straight solid performance, completing 10-of-16 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, throwing one interception on a Hail Mary toss late in the scrimmage.

Mettenberger's situation is complicated by an off-field issue last month, however, when he was arrested on charges of underage consumption and possession of a fake I.D. Richt clarified the situation Saturday, saying that Mettenberger would sit out at least the first game of the regular season against Louisiana-Lafayette, and could potentially miss more time depending on the final outcome of Mettenberger's legal proceedings.

The suspension would make it tough for Bobo to prepare for the season with Mettenberger as the nominal starter, since he would then also have to get another quarterback ready to start the opener before making a change after Mettenberger returns to action.

Richt said he didn't want to speculate on how that might affect the competition going forward, but for now Bobo was setting the complications aside.

"We don't want them looking ahead, and I want us trying to get better," Bobo said. "We have a lot to get better at, and it's too early to decide that. We'll cross that bridge when it comes to it."

That seems to be the way all of the Bulldogs are approaching the situation, and so far, it hasn't been a problem.

Receiver A.J. Green had a chance to catch passes from all three quarterbacks Saturday, and he said each was right on the money.

"You can throw anyone in there and it feels like a normal day going through the motions," Green said. "They all threw perfect balls to me, so it was a good day for the quarterbacks."

That's good news for Richt, too.

He may be just a week away from handicapping the race for the first time, but that's more of a secondary concern. The most important issue, Richt said, is that each of the three has proven they belonged in the race, so when the time comes Richt will be announcing which quarterback won the job rather than simply settling for the player who made the fewest mistakes.

"I feel much more confident," Richt said. "I expected the progress to be made. I know their talent base and their work ethic, so I'm not surprised by it. But do I feel better now than I did when we started? Yeah. They're doing what I was hoping or what I anticipated they would do."

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