UVA Football: It’s Greyson Lambert’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it
Greyson Lambert stays at UVA, he’s the backup quarterback on a bad 1-3 team. He leaves Virginia, and he’s the starting quarterback for eighth-ranked Georgia, he has an NCAA record in the books, and on Saturday, he leads the Bulldogs into Sanford Stadium as favorites against Alabama.
Oh, and his girlfriend will be in Sanford Stadium to be crowned Miss Georgia at halftime.
It’s pretty good to be Greyson Lambert these days.
“Everything I was looking for and wanted, this move solved all of that,” Lambert told ESPN. “It didn’t take me starting and winning the first four games to feel like that. Even before the decision was made, I felt better and thought this was the right place for me.”
Lambert graduated in the spring from UVA, finishing up his anthropology degree in three years. He’d already made the decision to transfer after losing the starting QB job to his 2014 backup, Matt Johns. Virginia head coach Mike London had opened up the quarterback job in spring practice after Lambert had struggled in his first season as the face of the Cavalier football program.
In nine starts, Lambert had a 115.7 passer rating, completing 59.0 percent of his passes (154-of-261) for 1,632 yards (10.6 yards per completion, 6.25 yards per attempt) for 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Johns, in three starts and 12 appearances overall, had a 122.6 passer rating, completing 54.9 percent of his passes (89-of-162) for 1,109 yards (12.5 yards per completion, 6.85 yards per attempt) with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
Johns outplayed Lambert in the fall, and then according to London, the spring QB battle “wasn’t even close.”
The decision to leave wasn’t a hard one to make for Lambert.
“I lost a little bit of love for it,” Lambert told ESPN. “Just not feeling like myself anymore was the worst part. I didn’t feel like myself and wasn’t happy, and things weren’t like I wanted them to be. I knew if I wanted to accomplish what I wanted, I needed to make a change.”
He landed at Georgia, which had recruited him as a high-school star in the state of Georgia. UGA coach Mark RIcht was looking for an extra arm to compete in training camp in August for the starting job, and not necessarily expecting Lambert to be the guy who would emerge as his guy.
“He’s tall, and he has good fundamentals,” Richt said. “I thought he was a pretty accurate short-to-intermediate passer. On the long balls, it was kind of hard to tell. I thought he could make the throws we were going to ask him to make. You saw him get knocked down some and get back up. You saw him make some mistakes. He looked human.”
Lambert, to say the least, has flourished at Georgia, with a passer rating of 201.0, completing 76.5 percent of his passes (52-for-68) for 733 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
He’s also been sacked just twice in four games, after being sacked 11 times in 2014.
And then there was that NCAA record game. In a 52-20 win over South Carolina on Sept. 19, Lambert completed 24 of his 25 pass attempts for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s a far cry from his days at UVA, which began in the 2014 season opener with Lambert throwing two pick-sixes and being benched in favor of Johns, who led the Cavs in the second half to a rally that came up just short in the final minutes, igniting a season-long quarterback controversy.
“I think so many times you have players that just happen to choose the wrong school for them,” said Buddy Geis, a quarterback coach with more than 30 years of college and NFL experience who worked with Lambert in high school.
“When he made the move to Georgia, I had a great feeling that because of the great running game it would be a great fit for him,” said Geis, who thinks Virginia didn’t use Lambert right in running him mainly out of the shotgun, believing that Lambert is most effective under center.
“I always believed this kid had a ton of talent. He’s a very quiet and nice kid. I always hoped the talent would blossom out of him, and it’s OK that it took a couple of years for it to happen,” Geis said.
The program that he left behind is too focused on righting its own ship to have paid a lot of attention to what Lambert has been able to do in his new home.
“I’m glad for Greyson doing what Greyson is doing,” London told reporters on the ACC coaches teleconference this week. “My concern is for Matt Johns and how Matt Johns is doing and the success of Matt and for our team and for how we can get better. Players come and then players leave, and you wish and you hope the best for them, but you concentrate on the ones that are here, the ones that have stayed, and getting them better.
“Every player that’s been here and had a chance to get a Virginia degree and leave and go somewhere else, you know, you’re happy for them, but the focus for us, for me, is to get a Matt Johns, a Connor Brewer, a Colin Cutler, Nick Johns, to get those guys ready and get them to where they need to be,” London said.
Geis didn’t mince words on what he thinks about what the Virginia coaching staff did in terms of getting his former pupil where he needed to be.
“I think sometimes as coaches, we have to take some blame, too,” Geis told ESPN. “They recruited a highly sought-after kid and the talent was there. Sometimes we have to say, ‘What fits this kid?’ If this is the pilot of my jet plane, I want to make sure he’s really comfortable in what he wants to do — not what I want to do.
“What they were doing at Virginia and how they were doing it, I didn’t like it. That’s my opinion,” Geis said.
But Virginia is in the rear-view for Lambert. His focus right now is on beating Alabama, which is an underdog on Saturday for the first time in 73 games, and pushing the ‘Dogs downfield toward its first SEC championship since 2005.
He’s the starting QB on a Top 10 team with a legitimate shot at a playoff berth whose girlfriend is Miss Georgia.
It’s Greyson Lambert’s world, and the rest of us are living in it.
– Column by Chris Graham