The Logan Gray situation at UGA remained unresolved as of Monday. So whether he stays at Georgia or stays at quarterback has yet to be determined.
What is known is the Bulldogs will be precariously thin at the position whether Gray is a factor or not. If not, freshman signee Hutson Mason would be entering college as the No. 2 quarterback behind redshirt freshman Aaron Murray and one of two invited walkons would be the third option.
For the reality of how precarious that situation is we need to look back to Georgia’s 1977 season. The Bulldogs that year went through five quarterbacks. Starter Jeff Pyburn, then a sophomore, was lost to a knee injury in the Florida game. Chris Welton (broken leg) and Steve Rogers (separated shoulder) went down in the Auburn game the following week and Randy Cook broke a leg in the Georgia Tech game.
That left freshman Davey Sawyer to finish the Tech game — and the season — for the Bulldogs.
“Davey had played in the JV game against Tech just two days before on Thanksgiving Day,” recalled Ray Goff, then a graduate assistant coach for the Bulldogs. “It can get away from you in a hurry.”
Goff would encounter a similar dilemma years later as Georgia’s head coach. In 1995, he lost two quarterbacks — Mike Bobo (broken leg) and Brian Smith (separated shoulder) — and started six different tailbacks due to injuries. Hines Ward filled in in both situations, going from wide receiver to tailback to quarterback to help lead the Bulldogs to a bowl game.
So exactly who are the Bulldogs’ third and fourth options now? They are Greg Bingham of Columbus High and Parker Welch of Wayne County (Jesup).
Both quarterbacks are coming to UGA as invited walkons. And they are fully aware of the reality of the Bulldogs’ situation.
“Actually Coach [Joe] Tereshinski told me about that when I was up there at a scrimmage one day,” Bingham said of the ‘77 scenario. “He said they got down to like their fifth- or sixth-string quarterback. Amazing.”
Bingham appears the most ready should Georgia encounter such an emergency in 2010. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound signalcaller was a four-year starter at Columbus but had his junior and senior season impacted by injuries. He missed the first five games of his junior season with a broken foot and played his entire senior year with a high-ankle sprain. He managed just over 1,100 yards passing on a 2-8 team. Columbus has had only one winning season in the last decade.
“Georgia’s getting a steal,” said Brian Barnhill, Bingham’s coach at Columbus in 2008. “He’s got a great arm and he’s natural-born leader. He just didn’t have much around him and, consequently, stayed hurt all the time.”
Bingham had partial scholarship offers to Western Carolina and Pennsylvania’s LeHigh University but had already resigned himself to giving up football and attending UGA on an academic scholarship when Georgia assistants Mike Bobo and John Lilly offered him as an invited walkon earlier this spring.
“I got accepted early to Georgia, back in December, and just due to financial reasons and the availability of the Hope Scholarship, I had decided to get an education at Georgia as opposed to paying money to go out of state and play football,” Bingham said. “I wanted football to be a way to get into school for a full scholarship. Playing at LeHigh or Western Carolina just wasn’t possible financially. I was planning to go to Georgia anyway so I’m just thankful that Coach Bobo and Coach Lilly offered me this spot on the team as a walkon and I’m looking forward to getting up there this summer and working hard.”
Welch has a similar story. The 6-3 1/2, 220-pounder suffered a high-ankle sprain the second game of his senior season and did not play again until the last game of the year. Meanwhile, he was operating in a Wing-T offense. So, he “didn’t exactly have Hutson Mason-type stats,” as he said, when he played a full season on a 1-9 team as a junior.
Nevertheless, Welch had already accepted Georgia’s offer to walk on well before his senior season.
“I’ve known Coach Bobo for a while and he knew I’ve always wanted to go to Georgia,” Welch said. “I was at Dawg Night last summer and he said he liked what he saw and told me he could tell I’d gotten a lot better since the last time I was there. He said he was not able to offer me a scholarship at the time but they wanted me to come as a walkon. I knew right away that was what I was going to do.”
Both players will enroll at UGA with the rest of the incoming freshman on May 31st. And not that either player wouldn’t love the opportunity, but neither really wants to be in position to play in 2010.
Besides, nobody knows what Gray is going to do.
“To be honest, it’s really not anybody’s business but Coach Richt and the rest of the staff,” Welch said of Gray. “I don’t think people realize how good he is. He’s really good. He just hasn’t gotten his opportunity yet. But he can play; you can really see it in practice. And Aaron Murray, he’s really good, too. He’s just a really hard worker. Nobody’s going to study harder or work harder than Aaron. So the quarterback situation is definitely in good hands.”
For now at least.
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