How good was Matthew Stafford? How good was Knowshon Moreno? The Georgia Bulldogs are still finding out.
Coming into the season, one of the biggest questions for Georgia was whether fifth-year senior Joe Cox could replace Stafford. After all, Stafford was the Number one pick in the NFL Draft. He was perhaps the best quarterback to ever play at Georgia.
But four games into the season, Georgia misses Moreno, not Stafford.
No, it’s not because Cox has been spectacular. He’s been good, not great.
Georgia’s rushing attack, however, ranks second to last in the SEC, and most of the blame has fallen on the offensive line.
After squeaking out a win over Arizona State, head coach Mark Richt publicly voiced his frustration at the offensive line, challenging the group to get better. The linemen admitted as much, with right tackle Clint Boling going so far to say, “We’ve got to be more focused. We all know that we can be playing better right now, and we just need to go out and do it.”
This simply wasn’t supposed to be the problem for Georgia. At the beginning of the season, Georgia’s offensive line was expected to be one of the best in the country.
In 2008, Georgia suffered multiple injuries at that position. But despite the injuries, the line played admirably well. Freshmen got valuable playing time, everyone learned multiple positions, and the entire group appeared primed for a big 2009 season.
The experienced offensive line was expected to mask the loss of Moreno, and running backs Richard Samuel and Caleb King were anticipating big seasons behind this experienced group.
That hasn’t happened though, and perhaps the biggest reason why is because Moreno is no longer on the team. Last year, Moreno was running the ball, and any Georgia fan knows that most of his best plays were in the backfield.
His ability to turn a five-yard loss into a short yardage gain was one of his most impressive attributes. He bailed out his offensive line. He squeezed through the tight holes. His play making ability covered up a lot of their mistakes.
In short, Moreno made last year’s line look a lot better than they actually were. If he were back at Georgia this year, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be making them look even better.
Can the same be said for Stafford? Did he make the players around him better? How would he be doing this year? Would he be putting up bigger numbers than Cox? Maybe. Again, he’s a better quarterback than Cox. No one argues that.
But think how much better Cox’s numbers would be this year if Moreno were in the backfield. Think how much better Georgia would be.
Looking back, it appears Moreno made Stafford better. It appears Moreno made everyone better.