Mount Rushmore of UGA Quarterbacks
By Dave McMahon and Patrick Garbin
A year ago, we delivered our “Counting the Days” series—an example. This summer, we explore a topic that has been debated on The Dawgvent for years and years. Twice a week leading into fall camp, we will post the UGA’s Mount Rushmore of… series, whereby we each present our opinion of the top four Bulldogs representing each positional unit. Whether statistics, big plays, championships won, and/or something else, we have our reasons why these quartets of Bulldogs have been chosen.
Do you agree with today’s Mount Rushmore of UGA Quarterbacks? Who would you put on your list?
Dave McMahon—Twitter @dave_mc_stats
Fran Tarkenton (1958-60): Raised in Athens and having attended Athens High School, Fran Tarkenton was as dangerous as a runner as he was a passer. In his junior season of 1959, he led the Bulldogs to a 10-1 record, including 7-0 in conference play and a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Auburn, and an SEC title. Against the Tigers—a game which would decide the conference champion—Georgia trailed 13-7 with less than 30 seconds to go before Tarkenton threw across his body and the field, connecting with Bill Herron for the game-tying touchdown. A successful PAT secured a 14-13 Bulldog victory. Georgia then defeated Georgia Tech in Atlanta and Missouri in the Orange Bowl to cap the championship campaign. The following season, Tarkenton led the SEC in total offense and passing yards to earn AP All-American recognition as a senior in 1960. He ended up having a record-breaking NFL career and an outstanding career in business and broadcasting.
Andy Johnson (1971-73): Like Tarkenton, Andy Johnson is an Athens product and starred at Athens High School. Likewise, he was ineligible to play his freshman season, as well, but followed it up by rushing for 870 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1971, setting an SEC record for sophomores. That year, the Bulldogs finished 11-1 highlighted by a victory over hated Georgia Tech. Against the Jackets, Georgia trailed by three points with 1:29 left before Johnson led a 65-yard touchdown drive to defeat the state rival. Two seasons later, Georgia again trailed an opponent by three points late in the game. Against Tennessee in Knoxville, Johnson picked up a botched handoff which bounced off the turf, and ran around left end for the winning touchdown. After leaving Athens, one of the Bulldogs’ greatest quarterbacks played eight seasons in the NFL, as a running back.
Eric Zeier (1991-94): Eric Zeier was part of a military family growing up and lived all over the world, settling in Marietta, Georgia, by the end of his high school days. Another former Georgia quarterback great, Ray Goff, scooped Zeier up, and observed him destroy the majority of the school’s passing records. To be exact, he set 67 team records and 18 conference records. Many fans’ first memory of Zeier was coming off the bench against sixth-ranked Clemson as a freshman in 1991, whereupon he passed for 249 yards and two touchdowns under the lights at Sanford Stadium in an upset victory against what had been a dominant Tiger defense. As a sophomore in 1992, he led Georgia to a 10-win season including a win over Ohio State (and Kirk Herbstreit) in the Citrus Bowl. Despite finishing his collegiate career over 20 seasons ago, Zeier still holds the conference record for most yards passing in a single game with 544 against Southern Miss in 1993. He also remains in the top ten in SEC history for most completions, pass attempts, and passing yards in a career. Dawg fans can still experience Zeier every week during the season as the analyst for the Georgia Bulldog Radio Network.
D.J. Shockley (2002-05): Playing under his father at North Clayton High School, D.J. Shockley was considered the nation’s top quarterback prospect by some services. Despite seeing spot duty during much of his first three seasons due to the success of David Greene, Shockley still passed for 10 touchdowns and rushed for three scores, along with other big-time moments. After Greene left school, it was Shockley’s turn to shine in 2005. In his first game as a starter, he threw for five touchdowns and ran for another in the big win over Boise State. Georgia went 10-3 that season (Shockley did not play in one of the losses), and won the SEC Championship over LSU. In the title game, he was named MVP, passing for two touchdowns and running for another. As a senior, Shockley passed for 24 touchdowns, was intercepted just five times, and rushed for 322 yards and four scores as well. Besides him being an outstanding quarterback, and person, the fact Shockley stayed with the Bulldogs, waiting patiently before finally being given the chance, when he thrived, earning his place on my Mount Rushmore list. Today, he is doing a wide range of things including some broadcasting for various networks.
Patrick Garbin—Twitter @PatrickGarbin
John Rauch (1945-48): Georgia’s initial true drop-back quarterback, “Jarring” John Rauch ended his career as the NCAA's all-time leading passer, and his 36 career wins as a starter would stand as an NCAA record for 30 years until broken by Michigan’s Rick Leach in 1978. Plus, chosen by four selectors in 1948, he remains the only Bulldog quarterback in history to be selected to multiple NCAA-recognized postseason first-team All-American teams. More justification why Rauch is not only part of my Mount Rushmore of Georgia signal-callers, but my opinion of likely the greatest Bulldog quarterback of all time, he also rushed for 13 career touchdowns, was on the receiving end of three scores, returned a fumble for a touchdown, and his 13 career interceptions on defense still rank tied for 5th in UGA history.
Eric Zeier (1991-94): After quarterbacking Georgia to a combined 19-5 record in 1991 and 1992, Zeier's numbers soared as a junior and senior while the team faltered overall. In 1993 and 1994, he passed for a combined 48 touchdowns and nearly 7,000 yards, but the Bulldogs went 11-10-1 without a bowl (and without an adequate defense). Still, the way I figure, if an average starting quarterback had been under center instead of Zeier for the entirety of the two seasons, Georgia’s 11-10-1 mark in 1993 and 1994 would have been more like 7-15 or 8-14. What’s more, in the 82-year history of the Heisman Trophy, only three times has a UGA quarterback finished in the final voting of the award, two of which resulting with Zeier (1993, 1994).
David Greene (2001-04): As much as the Georgia defense hurt Zeier’s opportunities to engineer victories, it could be argued the opposite was true for David Greene. Still, he ended his collegiate career with the 9th-most passing yards in NCAA history (11,528)—No. 1 in the SEC—and as the highest rated quarterback in UGA history (138.3). Perhaps above all, Greene’s 42 career wins as a starting quarterback set an all-time NCAA record. And, for me personally, I would maybe prefer no other Georgia quarterback to lead an offense in a game's final minutes and 80 yards away from pay dirt.
Aaron Murray (2010-13): The career passing statistics are staggering: an SEC all-time best for yardage (13,166), completions (921), and touchdowns (121). Still, some forget Aaron Murray also had a knack for reaching the end zone with his legs—his 10 career rushing touchdowns rank third in school history amongst quarterbacks—and his 396 career rushing yards remain the most for a Bulldog signal-caller since D.J. Shockley’s 643 nearly an entire decade beforehand. Murray’s career starting record (35-17) was more like Zeier’s than Rauch or Greene’s, including a program-high in number of losses (tied with Zeke Bratkowski, 1951-1953). However, also like Zeier, many of Georgia’s defeats with Murray under center can likely be blamed more so on inadequate defensive play.
Later this week, we will reveal our next in the UGA’s Mount Rushmore of… series. Until then, again, do you agree with today’s list? Who would you put on your Mount Rushmore of UGA Quarterbacks?