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Post Random thoughts on the QBs

Friday April 7, 2006

I’ve tried to remind people many times over this offseason of the QB battle before the 2001 season. Richt had just taken over, and he had to choose between redshirt freshman David Greene and junior Cory Phillips. A freshman DJ Shockley would redshirt. Phillips of course had game experience starting several games over the last half of the 2000 season. In hindsight, it seems like an easy decision. But as late in the process as a couple of weeks before the season opener, Richt kept the competition alive and still referred to the two as “co-starters”.

The situation in 2002 was a bit more muddled. Greene was the starter, but Phillips had slid to third team behind the impressive freshman Shockley. Though Greene kept his starting job, this time was the birth of the infamous rotation that would define the Georgia quarterback position for three seasons. Had an early-season foot injury not derailed Shockley in 2002, the line between starter Greene and backup Shockley might not have been so tidy.

All this is to put the current quarterback derby in perspective. Richt has not two or even three but four candidates to evaluate. He has been deliberate not to shake up the depth chart during spring and has used words like “marathon” to describe the extent of this process. Those expecting serious movement or shuffling of the depth chart much before mid-August will likely be very disappointed and unnecessarily frustrated. With several candidates, Richt has said that the process might even stretch into the season.

That’s where I have a bit of concern. I can’t see very much good coming from a midseason change unless that transition is planned and very well explained beforehand. If someone starts the season and loses the job because of poor play (or even, God forbid, a loss), he and Richt will be crucified for having the wrong guy out there to begin with. If on the other hand the starter is undefeated and playing reasonably well and still gets replaced, there will be plenty of outcry from the “if it ain’t broke…” crowd that was out in full force during the David Greene years. A tough situation either way if this isn’t settled in large part before the season.

Coach Bobo has at least indicated that the decision might at least be pared down to two guys at some point in the preseason. That’s a good step, but it means that the race for the #2 spot is just as interesting and has some pretty important implications of its own. Consider…

  • Barnes. It’s not necessarily his last chance, but not making the top two means that at least one younger player has moved ahead of him. In order to start or see significant playing time, he’d have to improve enough to beat out younger players in the future. A thumb injury late in spring practice probably doesn’t matter much to the coaches, but not seeing him in action at G-Day will definitely leave him out of the fan discussion as they parse every snap of the spring scrimmage.
  • Tereshinski. Not making the top two means he would have been dropped from the pre-spring starter to the third team. It’s not unprecedented – see Cory Phillips who went from significant starting action in 2000 to the third team in 2002. And no one, I would hope, thinks any less of Phillips’s contributions to the program. It has been assumed that Tereshinski would simply be left behind in the wake of the freshmen, but he’s had an outstanding spring and is not going down without a fight. But you’ve seen him on the field for three years – would you expect any less than a strong fight from him?
  • Cox. Not making the top two is a little less dramatic for Cox. He’ll still have plenty of time to rise on the depth chart. But another season back on the scout team might be a little frustrating. He’s been described as steady, smart, accurate, and consistent. Comparisons to Zeier and Greene don’t hurt either.
  • Stafford. The wunderkind. The book on Stafford is becoming pretty clear, and it makes perfect sense. Part of becoming a college or even pro quarterback is learning when to take a sack or throw the ball away because the play is busted. The 60-yard jump balls across his body that made for great high school highlights turn into interceptions in college. But, honestly, if this is the main shortcoming in Stafford’s game right now, he’s ahead of most college juniors out there. It’s hard to imagine Stafford not making the top two, but if he doesn’t, it’s an instant sign that he’ll be redshirted. On the other hand, if he is among the top two it would be a huge waste of a potential redshirt season if he does not see significant playing time or even a starting role.

Lots to think about. But as this plays out, just keep Richt’s track record in mind. He’ll take his time, but he’ll also have the right guy(s) out there at the end of the process. It will be interesting to see the reactions (and overreactions) to what we see tomorrow. For most, it will be our first glimpses of Cox and Stafford, and we’ll see how Tereshinski looks now that he has stepped out from role of backup and caretaker. It’s unfortunate that Barnes won’t be part of the discussion, and I hope fans don’t totally write him off because he is not part of the action tomorrow.

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