Today's announcement that Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno would be leaving school early to enter the NFL Draft was expected by most, but the loss of two star offensive players leave UGA with big questions going into 2009.
Georgia is more prepared to handle the loss of Moreno, who's departure means that stud redshirt freshmen Caleb King will likely take over the majority of carries next year. King, the highly touted back out of the Atlanta area, was solid when given opportunities this year, averaging four yards per carry.
The Bulldogs also have Richard Samuel, a big, explosive back who was impressive in a limited role last year.
However, the loss of Stafford should have a much more profound impact on the team. The departure of the record-setting passer leaves UGA without a proven starter at the quarterback position and creates one of the most interesting position battles in the country going into next season.
Joe Cox has the advantage of being the only senior among next year's quarterbacks, but that advantage is likely outweighed by Cox's relative inexperience—he's only attempted 58 passes in his career. Still, his status as the elder-statesman likely gives him a leg up going into spring practice.
Dual threat quarterback Logan Gray, who will be a redshirt sophomore next year, is likely to see significant playing time, but probably in a "Wild Dawg" formation. His athletic ability gives UGA its best running threat at the position since D.J. Shockley, and Mark Richt is likely to take advantage of that, especially with the loss or Moreno in the running game.
The two wild cards in the competition will be incoming freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger. Both players are graduating high school early, and will be enrolled in Athens come spring.
Of the two players, Murray is the most likely to get a serious look at grabbing the starting job. The accurate passer out of Tampa has been one of the most talked about recruits in the nation over the last year, and is the odds-on favorite to take over the starting job down the road.
Mettenberger, while not as heralded as Murray, makes up for it in size and arm strength. The 6'5", 230-pound signal caller out of Watkinsville, Ga. has perhaps the biggest arm in this year's recruiting class, and has been compared by many to the now-departing Stafford.
The 2009 season for the Georgia Bulldogs is likely to be a step back from the success of this year's team, but how far this team drops back will likely be decided by the new starting quarterback for the Dawgs—whoever it may be.