There Need be Only One Dawg in the Fight for Georgia's Quarterback

Patrick GarbinContributor IApril 6, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 28:  Backup quarterback Aaron Murray #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Bulldog Nation recently breathed a collective sigh of relief when it was learned its players were cleared in the newly solved “taxi incident” case; no Bulldog will join the newly dismissed Montez Robinson as an ex-Dog.  With G-Day looming this Saturday, Georgia fans can now concentrate on more pertinent issues, like the race for the starting quarterback position.

As another spring practice comes to a close, for the third time in Mark Richt’s 10 years as Georgia’s head coach, there is some question of who will direct the Bulldogs’ offense in the upcoming season.  The candidates are certain—junior Logan Gray and redshirt freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger—but, according to the coaching staff, the front runner appears to still be pending.

Richt recently commented that there will be a depth chart at the end of spring, but he doubts there will be any mention of which of the three quarterbacks won the starting job.  “We might give co-No. 1 and a 2,” Richt said according to the Athens Banner-Herald.  “I don’t know what we’ll do.”

What they “do” in regard to the Bulldogs’ search for a starting signal caller really doesn’t matter, for now.  However, if Richt has learned anything from his past while in Athens, it is to know who his most talented quarterback is by the end of the summer, and start him immediately in game one. 

Entering Richt’s first season of 2001, there was a heated competition between redshirt freshman David Greene and junior Cory Phillips.  While Phillips led Georgia in passing the year before, Greene had yet to take a collegiate snap from center. 

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Regardless, Greene was named the starting quarterback only two days prior to the Bulldogs’ season opener.  Five weeks later he led Georgia to one of its greatest upsets ever on the road, guiding the Dogs to their first SEC title in 20 years a season later, and ended his career in 2004 as the NCAA’s all-time winningest quarterback.

After passing for 626 yards in the last two games of his sophomore season, Phillips threw for just 232 in his final two seasons combined.

For the 2006 campaign, Richt took a little different approach than he had five years earlier.  This time, there was a four-way battle for Georgia’s starting quarterback and the winner was still very much unsettled by late summer.  Richt even indicated of letting the four quarterbacks play a quarter in each game.  Of course, he was kidding, or so everyone thought.

Although it was widely known he was far from the most talented of the bunch, fifth-year senior Joe Tereshinski, a third-generation Bulldog and labeled the most “reliable” by Richt, was named the starter less than two weeks before the first game.

Tereshinski promptly struggled against Western Kentucky, and was then injured versus South Carolina the following week.  Over the next three games, Richt juggled between freshmen quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Joe Cox.  As soon as Tereshinski was healthy again, Richt reinstated the apparently reliable quarterback. 

With Tereshinski at the helm, the Bulldogs dropped their next two games, both at home, including a loss to Vanderbilt on Homecoming.  By the end of the setback to the Commodores, Tereshinski was benched and would not play another down as a Bulldog. 

In his five career games Tereshinski saw significant playing time at quarterback, the Bulldogs suffered losses to Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt while barely defeating Arkansas (UGA was nearly a three-touchdown favorite) and I-AA Western Kentucky.  In the last 50 years or so, Tereshinski is one of only three Bulldog quarterbacks to start a season opener, eventually be benched based on performance, and never start again during his time at Georgia.

Tereshinski’s replacement, Stafford, immediately displayed a confidence, swagger, and cannon for an arm, confirming why he was so highly recruited.  By the end of the 2006 season, he quarterbacked Georgia to three consecutive wins over a trio of ranked teams when the Bulldogs were unranked themselves.  Stafford ended his Georgia career as perhaps the most talented player ever under center for the Bulldogs.         

For 2010, ask Bulldog followers and most will indicate they believe Murray to be the clear-cut favorite.  From what I know and have seen, there is no question the starting job is Murray’s to lose.

Nevertheless, is there a legitimate quarterback race for the top spot?  Has Murray not separated himself enough from Gray and Mettenberger to get the early, starting nod from Richt?  Based on the coach’s past, we may not know the answer until mere days before the season opener on September 4th.

Whoever his choice, Richt should first think back to 2001 and 2006 when he hopefully learned a thing or two concerning quarterback battles: Quarterback carousels seldom work and, despite any loyalties, picking the most talented and sticking with him usually does.