“Carson has done a nice job of being a guy that studies,” Smart said. “That’s the case for the backup quarterback, they have to be prepared and prepare for every game as if they’re the starter, because they don’t know when things will happen, or when they’ve got to go in.”
The Bulldogs face Florida at TIAA Bank Field at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, with starter Stetson Bennett bringing a 1-1 series record against the Gators into the action.
A quick look around the SEC serves as a reminder that quarterback attrition is part of the game.
The SEC has seen five of its teams start more than one quarterback on account of injuries this season: Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas A&M.
Smart had to make such a move two years ago when Bennett injured his shoulder during a 44-28 loss to Florida, bringing in D’Wan Mathis.
Last year, Bennett was handed the starting job back with JT Daniels experiencing recurring upper body injuries after taking an inadvertent hit when Jalen Carter threw a blocker into him during the final “non-contact” preseason scrimmage.
It wasn’t so long ago that Washington Commanders QB Jake Fromm, then a freshman at UGA, replaced injured incumbent Jacob Eason in 2017 and led the Bulldogs’ to the brink of a national title before a defensive meltdown in overtime.
Fromm, it’s worth noting, was back on the UGA campus in fall drills and dished out high praise on Beck.
“When you look at Carson, very prototypical NFL quarterback,” Fromm said. “You see a guy who is a bigger guy with a big arm, not as mobile compared to the other guys not on the roster, but if he can do what he does better than the other guys, there maybe could be an opportunity for him.”
Bennett has been durable this season, playing through a shoulder injury at Missouri earlier this season, and then splitting reps with Beck this week while practicing through bumps and bruises.
Beck, who hails from Jacksonville, hasn’t had many opportunities to get hit in games this season.
Beck had extended playing times in two games, most recently appearing razor-sharp in the fourth quarter of Georgia’s 55-0 win over Vanderbilt by completing 8 of 11 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
One of Beck’s incompletions against the Commodores was dropped by a walk-on, and the other was a missile into a tight window in the back of the end zone caught by a receiver unable to keep his feet in bounds.
Smart was impressed, and he said those game reps were “very important” for Beck’s development.
“He gets to throw it in practice, gets to throw it in a game environment,” Smart said. “He continues to improve and prepare like he’s ready to play, because we’ve got a quarterback that’s mobile and a quarterback that’s going to get hit some. So, he’s got to be ready.”
Beck’s other extended playing time came in a 48-6 win over South Carolina, when he was 5-of-6 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Still, Smart knows that Beck lacks the sort of experience that has led the head coach to trust Bennett as his starter.
“He certainly hasn’t been in a lot of critical moments that Stetson has,” Smart said, “but he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Specifically, Beck has himself ready to play if needed.
Here’s a look at how many snaps the Georgia and Florida quarterbacks have gotten this season: