Mettenberger Shines as QB Battle Continues

Mettenberger Shines as QB Battle Continues

ATHENS – Zach Mettenberger showed off his NFL-caliber arm during Saturday's G-Day game at Sanford Stadium.

Aaron Murray tossed a few lasers, too. Even Logan Gray connected for the Red team's lone touchdown pass and added a few nifty runs along the way.

A quarterback competition is always a marquee event in the spring, head coach Mark Richt admitted, but Saturday's final act only offered more intrigue rather than any definitive answers.

"I know everybody wants to know what's going on, they want to know who the starter is," Richt said. "I couldn't name a starter right now if I wanted to."

Richt said a depth chart will be coming by the end of next week to give fans – and the quarterbacks – at least a small glimpse into who might eventually win the battle, but even that is still a long way from finding a long-term solution.

Gray, Mettenberger and Murray will all meet with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo in the coming week and learn a bit more about where they stand in the pecking order, but that's far from the same as naming a starter.

"It matters some, but ultimately everybody's going to have to compete again during fall camp, go out and take reps and make plays and run the offense again," said Gray, who played the entire first half of Saturday's G-Day game with the No. 1 unit offense, completing 10-of-17 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt talks about G Day...

Gray's performance was solid, if unspectacular, but at the least he proved he belonged in the competition. When the 2009 season ended, Gray seriously considered a position change, seeing his future at quarterback as rather bleak. Instead, his spring has been strong enough to keep him in the mix for the starting job.

Murray ended the day 10-of-22 for 96 yards
It was Mettenberger who stole the show Saturday, however. The redshirt freshman hit walk-on receiver Rhett McGowan on a 20-yard touchdown pass and tight end Arthur Lynch on a 39-yard score in the second quarter to secure the 17-7 win for the black team.

Mettenberger finished the game 6-of-10 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and showed off a cannon arm that receiver A.J. Green compared favorably to former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.

"Just catching them from him every day, you can see the resemblance in his arm power and how fast he can get the ball out there, how quick he gets it out there," Green said.

The biggest obstacle for Mettenberger, however, has little to do with his on-field performance.

An arrest during spring break last month for underage consumption of alcohol and possession of a fake I.D. will cost Mettenberger at least the first game of the season and possibly more, which adds a degree of difficulty for coaches should they decide he has earned the starting job.

Richt said he hasn't given much thought yet to how the team would handle preparing the quarterbacks if Mettenberger were to be named the starter, but he said that would be a factor in determining the depth chart next week.

At this point, however, Mettenberger – who was unavailable for interviews, as is the case with all suspended players, according to Richt – simply wants to put the incident behind him and show fans his on-field performance is worth moving past the off-field troubles.

"He was just calm," Lynch said of Mettenberger's G-Day performance. "He was like, look, this is my second G-Day, it's time to go make some plays and establish myself. And I think he wanted to show the fans that, yeah, I know I got in trouble, but I'm still here. I'm going to try to do my best. I think that's what he's doing."

The third horse in the race – and by many accounts, the favorite – is Murray, who has impressed throughout the spring but failed to turn many heads Saturday.

Murray finished the game having completed just 8-of-19 passes for 96 yards, and he threw the game's lone interception – a poorly executed pass under pressure that hit linebacker Marcus Dowtin in the chest.

"I did alright, but it wasn't my best day," said Murray, who split time with both the first- and second-team offenses. "There's definitely some things I need to continue working over the summer."

Of course, the G-Day game doesn't tell the whole story, as everyone involved readily acknowledged.

Mettenberger's success can be buoyed by the knowledge that it came with the second-team offense, but he also threw against the second-tier defensive players. Moreover, the defense showed little of it's more intricate schemes and blitzes, so all three quarterbacks faced a watered-down version of what they competed against during the previous two scrimmages. And as Richt pointed out, the quarterbacks can't be tackled during the spring, so the team has yet to get a good feel for how they'll react to a real pass rush.

Gray ended the day 10-of-17 for 132 yards and a TD
All of that leaves plenty of room for doubt in a competition that proved to be surprisingly close throughout the spring.

"I don't know if anybody's done enough yet, or maybe everybody's done so much that there's not a clear-cut No. 1 yet," Gray said. "Everybody's had some really good days and a few not-so-good days. Everybody has to stay more consistent, and we'll look at the whole spring and see what the coaches break it down as."

Richt said that competition could last well into the fall, and he didn't rule out playing two quarterbacks in the first game – which is how he handled quarterback competitions in 2001 and 2006 as well.

But while the story of the spring likely won't have any official finale for months to come, the more important message might be that a decision has been this tough to make.

"The good news is guys have played well," Richt said. "The unofficial stats are showing guys are hitting a high percentage of their passes, and that has happened most of the spring. Very few interceptions, very few bad decisions. It's been a good competition, and it's good to know we've got players who will get it done." Recommended Stories