April 20, 2009

UGASports Breakdown: Quarterbacks

With spring practice now over, it's now time to start looking ahead to preseason and examine just what lies in store for the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs.

Today, UGASports begins a series where we take an in-depth look at each position on the team, break each player down, examine the positives and negatives and attempt to predict what will happen this fall.

Today, we'll begin at quarterback where Joe Cox will be the starting quarterback when the Bulldogs open the season at Oklahoma State.

For the past three seasons, Cox served as the understudy to starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, expected to be the first player taken in Saturday's NFL Draft.

While Cox does not possess the same physical attributes as Stafford, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said his knowledge of the Bulldog offense and the fact he has the respect of the entire Bulldog team should play a role in helping Georgia achieve its goals.

"That's one of the main reasons we recruited Joe Cox for that intangible reason he showed in school, leadership and how he was behind Chris Leak in high school and how he came in following a guy that's a "Five-Star" player," Bobo said. "That put a lot of pressure on him in high school. (Leak) had won so many games in a row but (Cox) stepped in and really relished that role that he was going to take advantage of it. I think he's doing the same thing here. I'm excited for him. His teammates are excited for him and they're going to play for him. He is productive when he's in there."

Don't discount the talents of redshirt sophomore Logan Gray.

The Missouri native brings an exciting flair to the position with his overall athletic ability, while freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger have already shown head coach Mark Richt that they have what it takes to be successful at the collegiate level.

UGASports on Cox: From an experience standpoint and having a complete understanding of the offense, the Bulldogs couldn't be in better standing with the Charlotte, N.C. native. Cox proved his worth three years ago as a redshirt freshman when he connected on 10 of 13 passes for 156 yards to lead Georgia to its come-from-behind win over Colorado, and goes into the fall having completed 33-of-58 career passes for 432 yards, five touchdowns and one interceptions.

There are some questions. How will Cox respond to being the starter? Is arm strength a factor? Few quarterbacks can fling the ball as far as Stafford. Can Cox off-set that supposed disadvantage by displaying a better touch with his passes and effectively look off to different receivers?

Those questions still need to be answered.

One thing Cox will definitely bring to the table is a competitiveness that will be easy to see from the stands. He's not afraid to get into the face of a lineman for missing a block or a receiver for dropping a pass or running the wrong route.

Richt believes Cox could have a year similar to that of DJ Shockley, who patiently waited his turn behind David Greene until finally getting his shot in 2005. Shockley led Georgia to an SEC title. No, Cox isn't the same class athletically as Shockley, but he's no stiff, either.

But ulitmately, he'll still have to perform well. The success or failure of Georgia's season will depend on it.

UGASports on Gray: The most popular player on any team is the backup quarterback and Gray certainly has plenty of fans.

With good reason:

Along with Shockley, Gray is one of the most exciting players to play quarterback for the Bulldogs in some time, simply because you don't know what he's going to do next. Cox can burn a team with both his arms and his legs, and after two years in the system, understands what's going on.

Gray won't start, but he will play. Bobo has already stated that certain plays are being designed for Gray to take advantage of that athletic ability.

He should be fun to watch. Like Cox, some have hinted that the arm strength may not be quite there but Gray proved otherwise during the G-Day game and made several nice throws, which will only increase the chances that he'll get his share of playing time come fall.

There's still the experience factor to be concerned about as Gray has not yet had the opportunity to prove that he can be effective in tight game situations, although the talent is obviously there.

UGASports on Murray: Most figure it's only a matter of time before Murray steps to the forefront and becomes the next, great Georgia quarterback.

While that probably won't be this year, Murray was outstanding in the Bulldogs' three scrimmages showing outstanding maneuverability and a strong right arm.

Although it remains unclear as to whether or not Richt will redshirt Murray or Mettenberger this fall, the Tampa, Fla. native seems to picking up the basic nuances of the offense at a good pace.
It's likely going to take an injury or two for Murray to get any playing time this fall, but if he continues to improve at his current rate, his future does indeed appear bright.

UGASports on Mettenberger: There's no questioning the strength of Mettenberger's arm. He throws rockets, as evidenced by the fact that Bulldog receivers struggled all spring holding onto the lasers that Mettenberger (6-foot-5, 240) would fire their way.

By his own admission, footwork remains a bit of an issue but it's something he's working hard to improve.

Being a local guy from nearby Oconee County High, Bobo concedes there's a bit more pressure on Mettenberger to succeed, but coaches have been pleased with his work ethic and desire.

While that won't translate into playing time come fall, he definitely remains on the right track.

Tuesday: The running backs.

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