Questioning Carson Beck as a capable successor to Stetson Bennett is so August.
Through his first six games as Georgia's starting quarterback, the redshirt junior has been beyond brilliant in guiding the Bulldogs to an undefeated record and maintaining the team's preseason No. 1 ranking. Beck has completed 144 of 196 passes (73.5%) for 1,886 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.
His yardage total ranks fourth nationally, while his accuracy ranks sixth.
"Carson is very intelligent," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday in his weekly news conference. "You can say what you want about the quarterback position, but you have to process information rapidly, and the more information you can handle, the more flexibility your offense has.
"It's very rare in college football or even pro football for a quarterback to be in the same system more than three years, and Carson has been in this system three or four years, so he understands it."
Beck had his best game yet during Saturday night's 51-13 dismantling of Kentucky inside Sanford Stadium, with the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder from Jacksonville completing 28 of 35 attempts for 389 yards and four touchdowns. According to ESPN, that 80% accuracy against the Wildcats went up to 85% during blitz situations.
Smart credits Beck having played baseball for some of that.
"A baseball background, I've learned, gives you the ability to handle pressure," Smart said, "because there is no greater pressure than you having to throw a strike. Nobody can help you throw that strike -- no coach, no pitching coach. You've got to stand out there and throw a strike.
"That pressure is not the same as a man running in your face, but it is pressure, and he does well under pressure."
Beck agreed Monday that baseball has helped, telling reporters, "You're the only guy who's really doing anything when you're up there pitching. Baseball is a little bit more boring of a sport, and when you're sitting there pitching, you're the guy, and all the weight is on you to sit there and execute."
The Bulldogs visit Vanderbilt, a program they have blistered 117-0 the past two seasons, this weekend for a noon kickoff on CBS. Should Georgia throttle the Commodores again, the Bulldogs would enter their open date with a 7-0 record containing a 4-0 mark in Southeastern Conference games.
Then it would be a trip to Beck's hometown to face Florida on Oct. 28, which may or may not provide its share of pressure.
"The confidence standpoint, I think, is the biggest thing," Beck said. "Continuing to move forward, I think I can improve in every area as far as timing goes, little footwork things, the knowledge of the game, the feel of the game, and trying to learn how to play football again. It was a long time since I had played in a game, and the game speed compared to practice is so hard to replicate."
Of course, Beck has practiced through the years against multiple defenders now filling up NFL rosters.
"The guy has a lot of spring scrimmages and fall scrimmages," Smart said. "We scrimmage three times in the spring and three times in the fall, so that is six times three years for 18 (scrimmages). You're going against some defensive talent for those 18, and they're blitzing you, so you get better.
"He still has growth he can do and can get better in understanding things and decision-making."
Vanderbilt upset Georgia 17-16 during Smart's first season in 2016, but the Bulldogs have won every meeting since by at least 24 points.
The Commodores are 2-5 under third-year coach and former Vandy fullback Clark Lea, who guided the program to upset wins over Kentucky and Florida last November. They have lost all three of their SEC games this season by at least 17 points.
"Everybody's situation is completely different, so I can't draw a comparison to his, and he's not one to sit around and complain and cry about it," Smart said. "He's from there, and he's proud of it. They've done a tremendous job. I think he has the right approach. He knows the area. He knows that state. He knows the institution, and I have a lot of respect for him.
"One of our coach's sons (Baylor School quarterback Whit Muschamp) is committed there, so I know that Will has a lot of respect for their program and what Clark has done."
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins saw action in 14 of 15 games last season and had a fumble recovery in the 27-13 win over Tennessee, but the 6-5, 300-pounder from Gaffney, South Carolina, hasn't played since the opener against UT Martin.
"He's dealing with a foot injury, and it's a significant injury," Smart said. "He's had a four-week shutdown, and I think we'll be on five. He's going to start doing a little more next week, with more being jogging and what I call weight bearing and not necessarily practice.
"We have a plan, and we have stages, and he's hit all the markers. We're hopeful to get him back this year, but when that will be, I don't know. We're going to do what the doctors say."
Contact David Paschall at [email protected].