Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer knew Bulldogs starting quarterback Greyson Lambert was smart. After all, Lambert had graduated from the University of Virginia with an anthropology degree in just three years. But even with that pedigree, Schottenheimer couldn't have imagined how quickly Lambert has learned Georgia's playbook since he arrived in Athens three months ago.
Lambert's mastery was evident last Saturday when he connected on 24 of his 25 pass attempts for a career-high 330 yards and three touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 52-20 rout of South Carolina. That set the NCAA record for single-game completion percentage (minimum 20 attempts).
"It's amazing how fast he picked up the system," Schottenheimer tells The Inside Read.
Last season, the 6' 5", 220-pound Lambert started nine games for Virginia, but the junior transferred to Georgia in June after Cavaliers coach Mike London named Matt Johns his starting quarterback. Lambert ended up winning the Bulldogs' starting job late last month, beating out Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta.
During Lambert's record-setting performance last Saturday, he also set Georgia's single-game record for consecutive pass completions with 20. The previous mark had been held by Colorado State coach Mike Bobo, who Schottenheimer replaced in January.
Schottenheimer, the son of former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer, didn't even know Lambert had set the NCAA record until South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told him after the game. "What he did is extremely hard to do even if you're just doing routes on air," Schottenheimer says of Lambert.
Lambert was able to achieve it after a crash course in studying Schottenheimer's pro-style attack. He made the seven-hour drive on weekends in June while finishing up his degree at Virginia to work on timing with his new receivers. "It does not come easy," Schottenheimer says. "I know it's been a lot of blood, sweat, tears having to make up for lost time."
Schottenheimer knows that difficulty firsthand from his 16 years in the NFL as an assistant. He saw quarterbacks struggle to learn playbooks with much more time than Lambert, let alone a few months. Overall, Lambert has completed 43 of 58 passes for 587 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions this season.
Lambert's record-setting day was a vast improvement from his struggles the previous week in a 31-14 win at Vanderbilt. In that game, Lambert didn't complete a pass in the first half and finished the game just 11 of 21 passing for 116 yards.
"It speaks to his ability to move on and put the last game and play behind him," Schottenheimer says. "It shows his competitive spirit that you're looking for in any player, certainly at quarterback where there's going to be a lot of high highs and low lows.
In the week of practice leading up to the South Carolina game, Schottenheimer had been impressed by Lambert's preparation. "He attacked it and went out and executed the plan," Schottenheimer says. "It was fun to be a part of that."
Lambert has also experienced good fortune off the field. Earlier this week, his girlfriend, Adeline Kenerly, found out she will be crowned Miss Georgia during halftime next Saturday when the seventh-ranked Bulldogs host No. 12 Alabama. Lambert and Kenerly attended Georgia's Wayne County High together.
"We knew that kind of helped us in the recruiting process," Schottenheimer says with a laugh. "Maybe gave us a leg up on some of the other competition."
It turns out Lambert might be even smarter than Schottenheimer knew.
Q&A with new SMU coach Chad Morris
The Inside Read: You've been on the job for 10 months and you're off to a 1-2 start. How do you feel about where your program is?
Chad Morris: This is a very much-improved football team over the first three weeks of the season. We're playing extremely hard. We're headed in the right direction. We're climbing up the mountain. We're not in a valley. With us playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, we're making a difference.
TIR: Where do you believe you've made the most progress and still need to do the most work?
Morris: We've made the most progress in our players understanding how hard they're going to have to play and what we demand of them. We've made great strides. We've also made unbelievable strides in connecting to our student body. One of the biggest things we've got to continue to press is we have to outwork everybody we play.
TIR: You and your staff have been very aggressive with different social media outreach efforts to generate excitement about SMU. What's been your favorite and why?
Morris: That's easy. Every Thursday I get out of the office for about an hour and I take the students to class in a golf cart. I thank them for coming to the games. They want to go back to the dorm, to class, to lunch, they get in the golf cart and I take them. It's door-to-door service.
TIR: Many don't know this, but you were a pretty successful high school basketball coach in the 1990s. Not surprisingly, you played an up-tempo style patterned after Loyola Marymount's high-scoring teams, right?
Morris: Our motto was 94/32. That means we're going to run 94 feet for 32 minutes. It was about how fast we could press the court. We wanted to start pressing you the minute you stepped off the bus.
TIR: You and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn are close friends and staunch no-huddle, spread offense advocates, but you were an I-formation believer before you met him. Why did he think you were trying to steal his offense the first time you two met?
Morris: (Laughs) First of all, that's just who Gus is. He's a very protective person who keeps everything close to his vest. He'd be a great poker player. But it was just my persistence. I kept telling him I'm not trying to steal your offense. I just need you to help me.
TIR: In your previous job as Clemson's offensive coordinator, you signed Chad Kelly, who was ultimately dismissed two years later for conduct detrimental to the team. He's now the starting quarterback for third-ranked Mississippi. What did you like about him?
Morris: I thought he was one of the most fierce competitors I've ever been around. He had a great knack for the game and was so knowledgeable about it. That's what really attracted me to recruiting him and building a relationship with him. It doesn't surprise me that he's having a successful year. I'm very happy for him and wish him the best.
TIR: Former President George W. Bush attended one of your team's practices last month and a photograph of him is on one of your team's play cards. What did he say about that?
Morris: Well, he asked me what it was and I told him it was the touchdown play, so he wanted to see it held up quite a bit this year. He thought that was very neat and was excited about it. I actually got him to hold the card up for us. I told him we needed to put him to work if he's going to come up here so raise that card up for me and let's go score a touchdown.
TIR: You're a native Texan, but until you got your current job in December, you lived out of state for six years. What did you hanker for the most while you were gone?
Morris: Two things: Whataburger and Mexican food.
TIR: The State Fair of Texas starts Friday in Dallas. Are you going and if so what are you eating?
Morris: Oh I'm going to be there, not this Friday, but there's going to be a point in time during the fair I'm going. I'm going to eat everything fried. I'm going to start with a corny dog and I'm not going to stop. If I have to eat a fried Twinkie, fried Snickers and fried mashed potatoes, whatever is fried I'm eating it. I bet it's been 15, 20 years since I last went. I love it.
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