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Gunner Stockton remains patient, following Carson Beck’s path

Gunner Stockton saw waiting turn into reward for somebody else. He’s hoping the same happens with him.

In this age of college football, it’s rare for a starting-quality quarterback to practice patience. If you’re good enough, there’s typically little reason to sit on the bench behind an entrenched starter. The opportunities – and money, in some cases – can prompt even the more loyal signal-callers to consider their alternatives.

Yet in Athens, the Georgia Bulldogs have the shining example of “wait your turn” in Carson Beck, who remained in Stetson Bennett IV’s shadow until excelling in his first season as the starter – to the point he could be a Heisman Trophy winner and/or the No. 1 overall pick in the 2025 NFL draft.

Beck’s story was a lesson for his backup. Stockton, a four-star recruit from Tiger who set multiple state records, has opted for patience even after Beck returned to school and Georgia has continued trying to strengthen its quarterback group.

“Carson is the perfect example; he’s shown resilience, and, heck, he’s waited his turn,” Stockton said earlier this week. “He’s worked hard. He’s proven that he’s one of the best quarterbacks, and it’s just a privilege to take from him and get to learn from him. It’s pretty awesome.

“I mean, at Georgia, you’re going to win, so that’s the biggest part. You can go to a lot of different places, but there’s a lot of things that Georgia has that (other places) can’t offer, so that’s probably the biggest part.”

Stockton isn’t guaranteed anything – besides sitting behind a healthy Beck in 2024. Beck arguably is the top returning quarterback in the country. A year ago, Georgia claimed Beck was competing for the starting job with Brock Vandagriff (now at Kentucky) and Stockton. This spring, he’s undoubtedly the team’s leader.

That leaves Stockton where Beck was with Bennett. Beck attempted 58 passes over two years before taking over. He had options if he wanted to leave – and he considered it, even growing frustrated at times – but he decided to let everything play out.

Like Beck, Stockton wasn’t promised a starting future. As a third-year sophomore, he could’ve been flourishing elsewhere and possibly already thinking about his NFL future; instead, he has 19 career passing attempts.

Stockton will hope his work and patience are rewarded, but that’s a discussion down the road. This spring’s conversation centers on how Stockton can best prepare for whatever reps he does get. He’s had impressive spring practices, by his own admission and the accounts of a teammate.

“I roll with the twos (backups) a lot, so we get to throw together a good bit, and he’s continued to get better every single day and continues to deliver good balls to me,” receiver Cole Speer said. “I can’t complain.”

Stockton will have plenty of opportunities to impress in Saturday’s G-Day spring game. He was 13-for-22 passing for 144 yards and an interception in the exhibition last year.

Georgia fans didn’t see much of Stockton after that, at least until year’s end. He had nine passing attempts in three games throughout the season before Stockton entered the Orange Bowl during Georgia’s 63-3 pummeling of Florida State. He was 6-for-10 for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

“I just want to show everybody that I can play,” Stockton said. “That’s what I tried to do in the Orange Bowl, and I thought I did. Take this opportunity just to go play a game, that’s the way I look at it.”

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