Hometown: Jesup, Ga
High School: Wayne County HS
Year: RS Freshman
Entering this season, the Hoos had a(nother) QB controversy brewing. Coach Mike London announced prior to fall practice beginning that he would name a starting QB early, and stick with that guy. This appeased most fans, and also led to a great deal of discussion about which QB it would be. Would it be the uber-athletic David Watford, who looked downright terrible during his cameo appearances as a true freshman in 2011, or would it be the highly touted, but completely untested Greyson Lambert?
Ultimately, the answer was Watford. His experience, combined with his leadership, was the key. Although, without a doubt, his ability to make plays with his legs was also a factor. Lambert, it should be noted, was not far behind Watford. Watford is a year ahead of Lambert, and has seen the field. There is something to be said for having been on the field during a college game. Practice simply can’t mimic the speed of the game, the roar of the crowd, or the butterflies in the stomach that all occur during a real game.
On paper, Lambert might be the best choice. He’s the bigger of the two. He’s the more polished QB. He’s more consistent in his footwork and throwing mechanics. However, he doesn’t have all that big an arm. And he isn’t near the athlete that Watford is. Lambert’s strength is his accuracy. Especially when in rhythm, Lambert excels on the short and intermediate routes. He’s a perfect fit for a west-coast pro-style offense, where he can take 3 and 5 step drops and get rid of the ball. This is the offense that new OC Steve Fairchild wants to run.
The problem, again, is that Lambert has no experience. Redshirt freshman QBs who are successful are few and far between. And with question marks around the Hoos OL, Lambert may have trouble staying in rhythm on his drops. Nobody really knows how Lambert would react if he’s unable to step into his throw a simply 3 step drop, because the opposing DTs are already in his face. Lambert’s pocket presence is good, and he should be able to step around the pressure and make plays. But without having seen him in live action, the coaching staff can’t know for sure.
Lambert was rated a 4 star prospect by Scout, and 3 stars by Rivals and ESPN. Scout ranked him the #9 QB in the nation, while ESPN ranked him 37 and Rivals ranked him 22. Frankly, his offer list is more telling than his ratings or rankings. He had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Miami, South Carolina, and Purdue (among others). All of those schools are among the best in the nation, and are historically known for having quality QBs. Steve Spurrier is arguably the best in the nation at picking QBs, so if he offers a scholarship, you can be sure that the kid can play. Lambert accepted the offer from the Hoos, probably at least partially because he knew he’d have a chance to play early on. Lambert was 195 pounds as a senior in HS, and has already put on 25 pounds of muscle. That added bulk will help him absorb hits, and also probably helps his arm strength.
There is some similarity with the QB situation in 2002. Back then, the two candidates were Marques Hagans and Matt Schaub. Hagans was the uber-athlete and Schaub was the big, steady, accurate QB without the big arm. Adding to the similarity is that Hagans and Watford are first cousins. The main difference was that Schaub had the experience and Hagans was the youngster. We all know how that situation ended up, but we’ll recap here anyway. Schaub ultimately won the job and an ACC Offensive Player of the Year Award. Hagans moved to WR, but ultimately ended up back at QB later in his career, and was pretty darned good himself.
Hopefully, the situation this time around will work out just as well, or better. Lambert will almost definitely get a chance this year to see the field. Ideally, that would just be garbage time, because Watford excels all season and stays healthy. But both of those aren’t all that likely, so we may see Lambert more than we’d like. The experience for Lambert will be gold, though. And Lambert could well win the job next season.