Georgia QB Happy He Stayed Around

FAYETTEVILLE -- Granted, it's taken four years for Donald Eugene Shockley Jr. to become an overnight sensation.

But ...

It's obviously been worth it because D.J. Shockley finally finds himself as the starting quarterback at Georgia and suddenly one of the Southeastern Conference's premier players.

Shockley, a fifth-year senior, has been lurking in the background, directly in the shadow of David Greene, just waiting for his turn to become numero uno.

Shockley started his first collegiate game at home against Boise State on Sept. 3 and that's when all the excitement began.

"It was exciting," he said. "I was ready to play."

Since then, he's been harder to stop than a Supreme Court nomination in the Bush administration.

That doesn't bode well for Arkansas which has to face Shockley and No. 4 Georgia at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.

"He's real athletic," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "He can go 40 or 50 yards on a bootleg or dash. He can fake an option play and run down those boundaries for 50 yards. He's that type of quarterback and when he's hot throwing, he's hot."

Shockley, a 6-foot-1, 206 pounder, definitely has made the most of his opportunity this season.

He's first in the SEC in passing -- and 13th in the nation -- efficiency (156.0), and total offense. He is 89 of 154 passing for 1,464 yards and 11 touchdowns.

So, what's different about a starter?

"I guess the biggest change is keeping my body fresh," Shockley said. "In the past years, I'd come in and get a couple of series and I wasn't as tired.

"When you're a full-time starter, taking every rep, taking every hit, your body kind of folds up on you. I think maybe keeping your body fresh every week and you doing what you're suppose to do to make that happen.

"I guess that's the biggest change for you."

In addition to all those passing numbers this season, Stockley has rushed for 224 yards and 5 touchdowns.

That makes him doubly dangerous.

"I think what he's done has been great," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "We are very fortunate to have him. He's done a great job for someone who doesn't have much seasoning as a first-year starter.

"I don't know where we'd be without him."

Where Georgia is, is 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC.

In a reserve role last year, Shockley played 10 games and was 26 of 60 for 464 yards, 1 interception and 4 TDs, and he had 24 carries for an additional 113 yards.

As a redshirt freshman, he played in 10 games, completing 32 of 52 passes for 415 yards, 2 interceptions and 5 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he played in only 6 games, completing only 9 of 21 passes for 88 yards and 1 interception and 1 TD.

So, why didn't he leave?

"I thought about all the positive stuff I learned from the people here at Georgia," Shockley said. "I learned from the people in front of me and from my coaches.

"I love my teammates. There were a lot of factors that played into it. Really, after I thought about it for awhile I knew I had to try harder. So, pretty much it's was more positive than negative.

"I knew I just had to be patient."

But ...

Did he ever seriously consider leaving?

He said yes, after the 2002 season, after Georgia won the SEC Championship -- it beat Arkansas 30-3 in the SEC Championship Game -- and after the 'Dawgs won the Sugar Bowl.

"Yeah," Shockley said. "I actually was a couple of days away from thinking I was going to leave. I consulted with a lot of people about it. I just spoke with my heart and just left it up to prayer. I ended up staying.

"I was real close to leaving, though."

Arkansas probably wished he had left, because he's become an offensive weapon which presents a lot of problems.

"We all were hoping that it was a player that would be inconsistent, that would be erratic, that would be just a runner," said Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring. "Completely the opposite this season. You turn on the film and you watch him, he's poised in the pocket. He's got great touch on deep balls. He's very, very accurate.

"He stands in the pocket. He makes all the throws. He makes throws on the run scrambling. It looks like he's trying to throw the ball more than run. But when there's nobody to throw to, he will put it down and run. So, he's really just getting better and better with each game.

"His accuracy is phenomenal."

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