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June 26, 2005

Southern imports

LAS VEGAS - Years from now fans might call the 2006 recruiting class the year the SEC annexed the state of Texas.

When two of the Southeast Conference's top programs went looking for quarterbacks they searched far and wide. Quarterbacks from tradition rich Southeast states were evaluated heavily, but in the end when the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators needed their star signal-callers of the future they turned to the Lone Star State.

In a good year for quarterbacks in Texas, the Dawgs and Gators ended up landing the top two signal callers in the state.

On May 5, UF struck first by landing a commitment from Stephenville, Texas, dual-threat quarterback Jevan Snead. Snead picked the Gators over offers from Big 12 powers Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M.

Eight days later the Dawgs got their man, when Dallas Highland Park pro-style quarterback Matthew Stafford picked UGA over offers from Texas, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and many others.

Both players were on hand at Saturday's EA Sports Elite 11 Regional Workout in Las Vegas and showed that it was wise of the Gators and Dawgs to search out Texas for top-flight quarterback talent. Stafford earned an invitation to the EA Sports Elite 11, which will be held July 25-28 in Southern California, and Snead made a strong case that he belongs after having a very impressive day.

After the camp both quarterbacks had time to reflect on the fact that they're both heading to the SEC for the first time.

"Honestly, I hadn't thought about it yet," Stafford said. "But now that you step back and look at, it's amazing that two of Texas' best are heading to the SEC and that we're going to be seeing each other for four or five years."

Snead said he noticed that Stafford committed a few days after him and he was excited to see he was also SEC bound.

"We played against his team in our sophomore season," Snead said. "He was really something back then. I was impressed with his poise and the way he was always on the money. I don't like how we're going to have to face him on the other side of the ball because he can kill you.

"I guess it'll just take another Texan to do better."

Stafford said he was drawn to Georgia for a number of different reasons, including the excitement of playing in the SEC.

"Every week in the SEC you face the best competition in the country," he said. "You have to go out there and be ready for every team because in that league anybody can beat you if you don't play your best game. It's also a great league for quarterbacks. They have such great prestige and it'll be really neat to be part of that tradition."

Stafford said he still is excited about his decision to play for the Dawgs. Now that his commitment is out of the way, the calls, the pressure and the questions are all behind him.

"It was like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders," Stafford said. "It was starting to get a little crazy, but I just loved coach Richt. I can't wait to get down there and get to learn even more from him. Coach (Mike) Bobo was also great in the recruiting process. I feel like it was just the perfect situation for me."

Just like Florida was for Snead.

"I was pretty excited to get the decision out of the way," said Snead, who was decked out in a Florida Gator hat and shorts on Saturday. "Florida is going to be a great experience, and I get to learn from some of the best coaches in football. I was always a fan of Urban Meyer and his offense, and when you combined that with everything that comes with playing in the SEC at Florida, it was a perfect fit for me."

Snead, like Stafford has also noticed a difference in pressure from recruiters now that he's committed.

"The coaches can't call me now anyways, but I've definitely noticed that the amount of letters that I'm getting has really gotten smaller," he said. "It really wouldn't matter even if they do try because I'm excited to be going to Florida. It's definitely a lot better now that I've gotten the decision out of the way."

Snead and Stafford were competitors on Saturday like they will be on the field the next four years. Stafford won the first round by getting the instant invitation to the Elite 11, but Snead could be one of the next invited as Student Sports and EA Sports have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks.

Up next will be a battle in the World's Largest Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, Fla. Neither would predict victories over each other because that's just not their style, but both said they're going to relish the chance to face each other.

"I guess it will be a Lone Star shootout between two Texas gunslingers in SEC territory," Snead said with a sly smile.


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