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June 19, 2015

When Perhaps 'Four's a Crowd,' and Certainly 'Five'

Even with the 85-scholarship limit, Georgia 
has demonstrated perhaps four scholarship 
QBs is one too many, and certainly five.
My blogging hiatus due to an overload of "real" work has ended—for now. And, it's good to be back blogging about the Bulldogs, coming on the heels of what has to be the most unique, late-preseason quarterback carousel in the history of UGA football: first, Georgia native Greyson Lambert decided to leave Virginia and committed to becoming a Bulldog, followed by Jacob Park apparently deciding to leave the program last week. Still, the next day, it was reported Park's decision to leave was not a "done deal," only to be announced the following day that he indeed was transferring.  

Yet, amidst the confusing comings and goings of Georgia signal callers, what I was most intrigued with were comments made by Park's high school coach, Ray Stackley, as the quarterback was supposedly being pursued by Bulldog coaches, who were attempting to persuade Park to stay, and not transfer.

According to Stackley, Georgia "definitely" wanted Park to stay and were "excited by his talent." Also, in speaking with Park's parents, who had spoken with Coach Richt, Stackley said, "[The parents] tell me [the Bulldogs] definitely don't want to lose [Park]. [The coaches are] trying to talk him into staying. They want to keep him around."

If what Stackley said was entirely accurate, and there's no reason to think otherwise, I wonder "why"? I observed Jacob Park throughout spring practice and, although a quality quarterback who'll serve some program well, he was undoubtedly thirda distant thirdon Georgia's depth chart, and certainly fourth with the looming emergence of Lambert.

Why would Bulldog coaches "want to keep" Park around and go as far as trying to "talk him into staying" when it's apparent he would have been Georgia's fourth-string quarterback who, aside from a serious rash of injuries, would likely never play significantly for the Bulldogs, especially with Jacob Eason's forthcoming arrival in 2016?

Perhaps Park was requested by coaches to remain at UGA, and this is simply for the sake of argument, because it would make Coach Richt "feel better": "I think I'd always feel better with four or five [quarterbacks] on scholarship, quite frankly, just as a normal practice" Richt said to the media in May. "We're just in a year where we have three. We hope that everybody stays healthy."

So, regarding the number of quarterbacks on college scholarship, what is "normal practice"? It depends. You'll find some head coaches who believe three quarterbacks are enough, while other programs aim for as many as six. As far as Georgia is concerned, beginning with the 1994 season when scholarships were limited to 85 for I-A programs, the Bulldogs' average number of scholarship QBs annually have varied depending on the "era": 1) the 1994-1995 seasons, 2) head coach Jim Donnan (1996-2000), and 3) head coach Mark Richt (2001-present). 

The following is the total number of different scholarship QBs serving each era followed by, most telling, the average number of scholarship QBs per season:  

1) 1994-95: 6, 4.0
2) Donnan: 14, 5.2
3) M. Richt: 17, 3.6
(Richt era includes three QBs for 2015—Ramsey, Bauta, and Lambert)

Although Richt feels it is "normal practice" to carry four or five QBs on scholarship, he has averaged just 3.6 annually while in six of his 15 seasons he had three or less QBs on scholarship. And, just once (2013) has Richt had five QBs on scholarship, or roughly the same number Coach Donnan averaged per season (5.2). Notably, despite having a coaching tenure lasting one-third of the Richt regime (5 to 15 seasons), Donnan nearly had as many different QBs on scholarship as the current head coach (14 to 17). 

It's one thing for a quarterback to be on scholarship, but it's another thing if he actually sees playing time (especially as a true freshman QB). The following is the average annual number of scholarship QBs to "play" (and, I use the word "play" loosely, meaning the QB was responsible for at least one rushing or passing attempt), including and followed by the average number who started at least one game. The results are remarkable, revealing Georgia's yearly average over the last 21 seasons of 2.5 scholarship QBs to see playing time, including 1.3 to start a game has remained rather consistent over the years no matter the era:

1) 1994-95: 2.5 QBs played, 1.5 QBs started
2) Donnan: 2.4 QBs played, 1.4 QBs started
3) M. Richt: 2.5 QBs played, 1.3 QBs started
(Richt era through last season)

What's the significance? Well, if a program is averaging only 2.5 scholarship QBs annually to see the field for at least one play, including just 1.3 to start at least one game, there are going to be a bunch of scholarship QBs who only stood on the sidelines (especially during the Donnan era). The following is the average annual number of scholarship QBs who did not start a game, including and followed by the average number who did not even see playing time:

1) 1994-95: 2.5 QBs not start, 1.5 QBs not play
2) Donnan: 3.8 QBs not start, 2.8 QBs not play
3) M. Richt: 2.4 QBs not start, 1.1 QBs not play
(Richt era through last season)

I'm not running a major-college football program, but it's evident Georgia would be just fine having three quarterbacks on scholarship, especially considering its annual average of just 2.5 QBs having run merely a single play since the 85-scholarship limit was implemented. I know, injuries and suspensions happen, and you can never be too careful, but the fact remains not once beginning in 1994 have the Bulldogs played four different quarterbacks in a single season. What's more, only once in 21 seasons (2006) did Georgia have three different quarterbacksonly threeresponsible for more than a dozen plays. 

Therefore, especially for a head coach who has been scrutinized in recent years by some for not oversigning players, instead of aiming to have perhaps four, and certainly five quarterbacks on scholarship as a normal practice, I'd be more focused on the fact that an average of greater than one scholarship QB annually during your tenure doesn't even see the field. 

That annual scholarship QB under Richt who wouldn't have seen the field would most likely have been Jacob Park in 2015, and perhaps beyond if he would have been persuaded into staying. Of course, the situation could have been worse, like playing under the previous coaching regime, when Park would have stood on the sidelines with two other scholarship quarterbacks.