April 7, 2006

Georgia quarterback job up for grabs

Even a guy who has thrown just three passes in his college football career can appreciate what it means to play quarterback between the hedges.

"It's a tremendous platform and there's a certain prestige that comes with it," Georgia sophomore Blake Barnes said. "There's so much excitement when you're going into the stadium with 93,000 fans."

There won't be that many fans attending the G-Day spring football game at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, but the several thousand who do will be eager to get a close-up look at next season's starting quarterback whomever that may be.

Georgia has been on a roll with its quarterbacks as Mike Bobo, Quincy Carter, David Greene and D.J. Shockley combined to throw for at least 2,440 yards in nine of the last 10 seasons.

Yet, those vying to continue that trend Joe Tereshinski, Barnes, Joe Cox and Matthew Stafford have combined to throw for a mere 380 yards. Tereshinski, a senior, threw for 371 yards while backing up Shockley last season. Barnes threw for 9. Cox sat out a redshirt year and Stafford threw for 4,018 at Highland Park High School in Dallas.

So, with that prestigious position obviously up for grabs the competition could easily produce animosity, but Barnes, who broke the thumb on his throwing hand on Monday and will miss the spring game, said that hasn't been the case.

"Everybody asks if there's been tension between the guys and there's been none of that," he said. "We're good friends and we joke around with each other."

But Georgia coach Mark Richt isn't joking when he suggests a starter might not be determined until a game or two is played in September. The Bulldogs open the season on Sept. 2 against Western Kentucky at Sanford Stadium.

Up for Grabs
Career passing yards for the Georgia quarterbacks:
Joe Tereshinski (Sr.) 371
Blake Barnes (So.) 9
Joe Cox (RFr.) 0
Matthew Stafford (TFr.) 0
"I think it's very possible, very conceivable," Richt said. "Game day is what kind of separates the guy sometimes. To be fair to Stafford and Cox, there's still a little bit more of a learning curve. We've got to go in the fall and say, 'This is where we are.' If he's still learning too much, then he's probably not going to play. So we're hoping that by the time we roll around in the fall, we can take that variable of how much does that guy really know out of it. If he's struggling with the learning of it he's probably not going to play. If he understands it, it's more of a fair competition."

Stafford, ranked by Rivals.com the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect in 2006, obviously has the most to learn because he has been in Athens only since enrolling in January.

"This offense makes you learn defense," he said. "A lot is left up to you at the line of scrimmage. I like a challenge and enjoy the game, so I'm looking forward to the future. I've learned a lot about defense and how to attack it and how to pick up little signs for what they're doing."

He's eager to apply what he's learned in the G-Day game.

"I'll just take it as if it was any other game," Stafford said. "I know I'll make some mistakes. Hopefully, I can make a few plays in between."

Since arriving in Athens, Stafford has shown teammates he has the tools to make plays.

"From day one (he made an impression)," Barnes said. "Just seeing him throw the football and talk football, you can tell he's an intelligent football player. Of course, I had heard about his tremendous arm."

But then, all of the quarterbacks have strong arms or they wouldn't be at Georgia.

Like Stafford, Cox was a Parade All-American and went 31-0 as a starting quarterback at Charlotte (N.C.) Independence. He passed for 4,509 yards and a state-record 66 touchdowns his senior year.

Plus, he has had a year to learn Richt's offense, which gives him a head-start over Stafford.

Tereshinski and Barnes also have plenty of credentials and more time in the system. Tereshinski even started last season's game against Florida. And they too have aspirations of playing between the hedges in front of 93,000 fans.

But on Saturday they will settle for several thousand fewer.

Olin Buchanan will be at Sanford Stadium on Saturday for G-Day before flying across the nation to cover Southern Cal's Spring Game on Sunday. For more coverage of Georgia Spring Practice, check out UGASports.com.


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