Beck closes Georgia spring as QB leader, but not yet winner

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FILE - Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) throws a pass during the second half of the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. Beck may be at the front of the line to replace Stetson Bennett, who led Georgia to back-to-back national championships for the first time in school history. That doesn't mean Beck believes he deserves to be considered the favorite in the competition with Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

ATHENS, Ga. – Carson Beck closed Georgia's spring practice as the leader, but not yet the winner, of the quarterback competition.

Beck is at the front of the line to replace Stetson Bennett, who led Georgia to back-to-back national championships for the first time in school history. Beck opened Saturday's G-Day scrimmage with the first-team offense, closing the Bulldogs' spring practice schedule as the favorite — but not yet the starter.

“I'd say I'm content with the way I attacked and performed through the spring and approached the competition side of it,” Beck said.

Brock Vandagriff also had snaps with the No. 1 offense Saturday and throughout the spring. Gunner Stockton is the third contender.

Coach Kirby Smart said he'd have to review tape from the scrimmage before evaluating the performances. Smart said Beck, a junior, earned the first opportunity with the starters on Saturday because “he's had the most practice reps.”

Beck was Bennett's backup the last two seasons. He showed good accuracy, completing 15 of 22 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown, in the scrimmage. Vandagriff passed for two touchdowns and had a 23-yard run.

“I think I put together a pretty good spring," Vandagriff said. “... It's a good, healthy competition between us two. You want to see the other guy do well."

Beck acknowledged it hasn't been easy to spend most of his time on the sideline the last three years, including a redshirt season, waiting for this opportunity. Georgia's runaway wins during its undefeated 2022 season provided opportunities for Beck (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) to play behind Bennett in seven games and complete 26 of 35 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns.

“Obviously it’s really difficult and I think it’s difficult for anybody when you come out of high school,” Beck said last week. “Really everybody who has come here has had to sit. We’re all four-star and five-star guys here and we’ve had a ton of them, but there have been a lot of guys who have had to sit and I’m sure every one of them would agree with me that it’s very difficult.”

Vandagriff (6-3, 205) was a hometown recruit from Prince Avenue Christian School in Athens. He said he considers himself to be a drop-back quarterback, even though he was rated among the top dual-threat players in his high school class.

Bennett recently showed off his arm strength by firing a fastball when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Atlanta Braves' home opener. He was a former walk-on at Georgia who had an unusual wait, having to transfer before returning to play on the scout team and finally capitalizing on his chance.

Bennett again hopes to surprise experts who project he will be a late-round pick in the NFL draft, which begins on April 27. Bennett and other 2022 seniors posed with their national championship rings on the field during the scrimmage.

Georgia's changes on offense this spring have included what Smart described as “an easy transition” to Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator after Todd Monken was hired to lead the Baltimore Ravens' offense.

NOTES: DL Bear Alexander, a sophomore, entered the transfer portal. He had two tackles for losses and a sack in the national championship win over TCU. “That's the way of the world,” said Smart of players who are “looking for greener pastures. ... More power to them.” ... Georgia unveiled its new mascot in its long line of solid white English bulldogs. Que, who was Uga X, is retiring with a 91-18 record. The 10-month-old Boom was introduced as Uga XI. ... Georgia took a deliberate delay of game penalty before the first play to honor former offensive lineman Devin Willock and Chandler LeCroy, a 24-year-old recruiting staffer, who were killed in a car wreck on Jan. 15, hours after a parade and national championship celebration.

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