Two-Sided Quarterback Has NFL Awaiting Him

FAYETTEVILLE — Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford has two personalities, sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with a much better arm.

When he's away from the football field, Stafford is an easy-going guy who sometimes looks like he hasn't combed his hair. But a much different, more intensive side of him comes out when he puts on shoulder pads and a football helmet.

"On the field, he's a very confident guy. Off the field, he's laid-back," Georgia wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said at last month's Southeastern Conference Media Days.

"He's a great guy who likes to joke around with his teammates. On the field, he's about his business. He's out there to win, and he's out to help his team."

Stafford was a part of the same heralded quarterback class of 2006 that included Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow and former Springdale High star Mitch Mustain. But in only two years, the 6-foot-3, 237-pound junior has seen his stock rise while helping to turn Georgia into a national championship contender.

Thanks to the explosive tandem of Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, the Bulldogs enter the season ranked atop of the USA Today coaches poll. Meanwhile, the hype around Stafford has reached the level where he's considered a possible top 5 pick in next year's NFL Draft.

Stafford threw for 2,523 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a sophomore last season. The former Dallas high school star has the size, and he'll likely have to make a decision at the end of the season whether to return to Georgia for his senior season or go pro.

"I hope that he is the first pick in the draft two years from now," Georgia coach Mark Richt told the Athens Banner-Herald late last month. "I'm sure Matthew is going to have to make a tough decision when the season is over.

"I know he came to (Georgia to) win a lot of games. He came to win championships. He came to play great as a collegian. I know he doesn't feel like he's reached his full potential as a college player and as a Georgia Bulldog."

Again, it's a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


DIFFERENCE MAKER: Running back Knowshon Moreno resembled former Georgia great Herschel Walker as a freshman last season, rushing for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games. Moreno is a gamebreaker, and there is already buzz that he — not quarterback Matthew Stafford — could win the Heisman Trophy this season.

RISING STAR: Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi is a former Parade All-American who might be ready to live up to the early hype. Stafford needs a target to throw to, and Massaquoi has the size at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds to be a breakout receiver. The senior hopes to improve on his 491 yards and four touchdowns from last season.

BIGGEST STRENGTH: No team has perhaps a quarterback-running back tandem like Stafford and Moreno. Both players are capable of changing games, and opposing defenses might have to pick their poison when it comes to trying to stop the Bulldogs.

BIGGEST QUESTION: Georgia has had a tumultuous offseason, one that has forced coach Mark Richt to get tough on troubled players. He has suspended five players for the season opener against Georgia Southern, and it remains to be seen how much of a distraction all of the arrests have taken on the rest of them.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: Georgia has arguably the nation's toughest schedule in 2008, but the most difficult challenge could come Nov. 1 when the Bulldogs face Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. The Gators have dominated the series at times, and another win could knock Georgia out of the national championship race.

FORECAST: 11-1, 7-1

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