Life without Matthew Stafford will be different, but not difficult.
Stated clearly, Stafford was a phenomenal talent. He had a great arm and a wonderful feel for the game when he played it well—he either set the world on fire, or broke your heart.
That was Stafford.
He was inconsistent at times and seemed to lack some of the heart you would like to see your starting quarterback exhibit both on and off the field.
If not for Knowshon's will, I don't know that Stafford would have necessarily been able to make a way.
So, what can Georgia do next year without a big-time quarterback and a game-changing running back?
It will come into the 2009 season very differently than it did in 2008.
It is minus the No. 1 ranking, devoid of the preseason respect, without a "No. 1" NFL pick to lead the way and bereft of a guy who has an arm that scouts drool over.
I have one thing to say about all that—bring it on.
The Bulldogs are not without talent at the quarterback position. They will be better than last season because they will not have a star to lead the way.
It will have to be a total team effort and that makes me feel pretty confident about our chances to continue winning.
This week will focus on two quarterbacks—Joe Cox and Aaron Murray will be profiled first, followed by Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray next week.
Jonathan Batson is on the roster, but will not be profiled at all as he will likely remain on the scout team and is currently a senior going into this season.
Joe Cox (RSr), 6'1", 198 lbs
Cox has been anointed the next man to hold the coveted signal-caller spot for the Bulldogs. He's waited four years to finally have a shot and hopes to be all that he can be this season.
Many people have forgotten about Joe because it seemed he disappeared after the 2006 season—at one point he seemed to mount a serious challenge to Matthew Stafford for the quarterback position but it was clear, after he struggled against Ole Miss in game four of the 2006 season, that Stafford would be the starter for the foreseeable future.
Cox went back to waiting.
Many don't know if Cox has the skills to lead Georgia to another bowl appearance and double-digit win season—he doesn't have the size or the arm strength of Stafford and he won't have the benefit of Knowshon Moreno to hand the ball off to either.
Cox clearly has odds stacked against him.
However, what he does have is leadership ability and a fierce desire to win—he might not dazzle you with his legs or his arm, but he also won't make you cover your eyes on a third and long when a play is breaks down.
Cox works well out of the shotgun. His lack of height makes him less efficient in his approach when operating under center—he has a tendency to quicken his release in a way that seems unnatural and forced at times.
It won't lead to excess interceptions, but it could lead to situations where he opens himself to the occasional sack or two.
His throwing motion is smooth and efficient although it is evident that the delivery takes some effort if it is meant to be fired into a particular spot.
Despite the fact that his arm strength is not jaw-dropping impressive, he has no problem throwing the ball down-field to his intended receiver—he is very accurate and drops the ball in with deliberate precision.
He is particularly accurate when throwing the fade route—a common play used by Georgia over the years.
Sporting a 4.65 forty time, Cox is not necessarily a threat to run but he has the capability to get the yards he needs if it becomes necessary.
His pocket presence is strong and he will have no trouble barking out plays and making his presence felt both in the huddle and on the field—in fact, this is one of the traits that is likely to be most crucial for the Bulldogs heading into this season as leadership ability was something that Stafford seemed to lack.
Cox has good field vision and reacts well to plays that are breaking down by making good decisions with the ball—he won't likely make the mistakes that can lead to poor field position.
He is steady and efficient and that makes him a very proficient quarterback.
As a four-year understudy, he is also intimately familiar with the offense. He knows where the first and second progression is on the field and will be able to anticipate the location and routes of each receiver.
The personnel has changed at Georgia, but the play-calling likely will remain similar to what we saw last season with a few additions and adjustments.
Further, Cox has game experience. He played in mop-up duty for Stafford on more than one occasion and was effective both passing and running the ball.
One appearance worth noting is his performance against the Florida Gators last season—he was 2-for-4 for 27 yards and a touchdown, also rushing for 13 yards in the loss.
This shows that Cox is capable of performing well in the spotlight—the game may have been over by the time he appeared, but his competitive nature showed he has no quit in him and that is something that cannot be taught.
Aaron Murray (Fr), 6'1", 206 lbs
Murray is one of two elite quarterbacks the Dawgs were able to land this offseason and he is the guy who many feel may mount the most serious challenge to Cox this fall.
At 6'1", he's no taller than the senior Cox, but he has a remarkable skill-set that showed itself to be quite formidable when he appeared in the G-Day Game this spring.
He fits right into the system that Georgia runs as he is thought to be a perfect pro-style quarterback despite the fact that he is a dual-threat on the field.
He has been clocked at a 4.70 forty, but he plays the game seemingly faster.
When he takes snaps from under center, he is calm and makes good decisions as to where the ball needs to go.
He has an excellent feel for the game and has the ability to read the defense and make adjustments on the fly.
If he needs to get the ball down-field, he can do so, he has above-average arm strength and makes up for his lack of height by moving into position for a better look at an open receiver or a potential passing lane.
As a runner, he is most dangerous as he nears the edge. He doesn't have a stable of moves to elude the defenders, but he uses his arsenal well and does not make mistakes as a ball carrier.
He is confident without being cocky and is a motivator within the huddle.
The one area that Murray needs to improve in is his familiarity with the playbook. He already has all that he needs to succeed—that includes his favorite offensive target and co-teammate at Plant, Orson Charles.
It is hard to say if Murray will get any action this season as Logan Gray is also on tap for some playing time.
However, it is impossible to think that he won't make his presence felt this fall and perhaps challenge Cox and Gray for playing time on the field.
Next up: Logan Gray and Zach Mettenberger.
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