September 01, 2015

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - The big quarterback decision has been made. That clears the way for No. 9 Georgia to sharpen its focus on the season.

Players reacted with no surprise to the news Greyson Lambert will start in Saturday's opening game against Louisiana Monroe.

''My personal reaction? Let's go,'' said senior wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell on Tuesday. ''Let's play football. Now we know who's going to lead the team. So it's his job to make it happen.''

Lambert, the transfer from Virginia, won the job over Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta. Coach Mark Richt announced his decision on Monday. Richt and players say it was a close race.

''I trust all three,'' said tight end Jeb Blazevich. ''I'm thankful I didn't have to make the choice.''

Added Mitchell: ''I don't think I would have been surprised regardless who he picked. Like I said, they did such a good job of rotating them, you could have picked any of the three and I feel like everything would have been in sync.''

Richt said last month he might let the competition extend into the opening game. Instead, he decided it was important to choose a starter and let him spend a full week with the first-team offense.

That made star tailback Nick Chubb happy.

''I like for things to be settled down and know who is going to play so you can plan on that,'' said Chubb, second in the SEC last year with 1,547 rushing yards. ''So I'm happy that we have a quarterback going into the first game.''

It's possible the race isn't over. Lambert needs a strong showing against ULM to support Richt's decision.

''I think also, depending on how he plays and how he does, those two other quarterbacks are going to be right behind him,'' Chubb said. ''I don't think it's really over. I just think it's a starting point for the season.''

Richt said Tuesday he may play more than one quarterback this week but doesn't plan on a rotation at the position. He wouldn't say how many snaps he hopes to give to a backup. Ramsey was the top backup to 2014 starter Hutson Mason.

Lambert started nine games for Virginia in 2014, completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,632 yards with 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He missed three games with an ankle injury and then lost the starting job in spring practice.

The experience as a starter at Virginia helped Lambert at Georgia. He also earned respect by learning Georgia's playbook quickly and reporting early to work out this summer with his new teammates.

''Just going through the summer workouts, he was running with us and lifting with us,'' Blazevich said. ''That's really where you build relationships and trust. He just worked alongside of us. He didn't come in expecting anything. He came in with a humble and hungry heart. That's what we need.''

Richt said the decision was made after reviewing video of every snap in scrimmages with first-year offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

''He covered a lot of ground in a pretty short time as far as figuring things out, so you have to give him credit for that,'' Richt said.

While Blazevich and Mitchell are Georgia's top returning receivers, Richt is surely to keep relying heavily on the ground game with Chubb being joined in the backfield by senior Keith Marshall.

Whereas Chubb was a one-man show in 2014 once Todd Gurley suffered a season-ending injury, Marshall should provide some help after being limited to eight games over the past two years due to injuries. Marshall ran for 759 yards and eight TDs as a freshman in 2012.

''I'm seeing great things from Keith,'' Chubb said during preseason practice. ''I don't know how he looked his freshman year in practice but I know how he played in games and I can tell you from what I've seen he looks very good.''

Chubb was a big reason Georgia led the SEC with 41.3 points per game in 2014 and finished 10-3 with a win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl. However, the defense was less consistent and gave up at least 30 points six times. That unit lost leading tacklers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, but the Bulldogs still feel they are deep at linebacker.

Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Carter and Leonard Floyd are considered big-play leaders in the middle, a trio that combined for 15 sacks last year. Plus, Tim Kimbrough could be a tackling machine on the inside and highly rated freshman Roquan Smith might make an immediate impact.

Louisiana-Monroe should not provide Georgia's defense much of a challenge after averaging 20.1 points in 2014 - 14th-worst in the FBS - and losing starting quarterback Pete Thomas (3,181 passing yards) from a 4-8 season.

Redshirt freshman Garrett Smith appears poised to take over after solid play in the preseason led to coach Todd Berry listing him first on the depth chart ahead of 2014 backup Brayle Brown.

Smith has a pair of talented receivers to target. Rashon Ceaser is a preseason first-team All-Sun Belt pick after making 77 catches for 872 yards last year, and Ajalen Holley is a second-team selection after having 863 yards and seven TDs.

Georgia has won all three meetings between the schools, most recently winning 44-7 in 2005.

The Warhawks did beat then-No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in 2012 but have since lost their three matchups with ranked teams by a combined 135-7 score.

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