Georgia Looks To Repeat

For Georgia Coach Mark Richt the SEC has been his personal playground since arriving from Florida State to run around the Bulldog program.

Hoover, Ala.--All he has done is lead Georgia to two SEC Championships and 52 victories in the last five years. While his success has been impressive, the 2006 season may be his most difficult to date because for the first time since his maiden season he will be playing with an inexperienced quarterback.

No matter who wins the position there's little doubt that Georgia will suffer some growing pains under center this year. Senior Joe Terishinski is the leading candidate to be the starter heading into two-a-days and should have enough experience to hold off the challenge early, but the talent level of Georgia's three young quarterbacks may be too much for him to hold off as the year goes on. Richt said that no matter who plays they'll get the job done.

"I've been coaching quarterbacks for 20 some years," Richt said. "Coach Mike Bobo is our quarterback coach and coaches them now. I still get involved. I still have to help make decisions on who should play and all. You just get used to the fact that you're going to have a new guy every once in a while. We've been fortunate to have David Green and D.J. Shockley be ready to step in and help us win an SEC championship. That's been wonderful.

"If history repeats itself, we'll find somebody who's going to play well," he added. "I think our system has a lot to do with that. I think the way we coach guys has a lot to do with it. I think recruiting the right kind of guys has a lot to do with it."

In an attempt to give everyone a better idea of the race heading into the season, Richt talked about each quarterback and their strengths and weaknesses. "Well, Joe Tereshinski is the veteran. He's a fifth-year senior. He's had some playing time - more than the rest. He's an old-school guy. He's tough as nails. He's a team guy all the way. He's a winner. He's a competitor. He understands our system. He's an accurate passer. He's got a lot of the things that you're looking for, other than not a lot of experience.

"Blake Barnes is a kid that's an outstanding passer, but in the spring he was hard to evaluate. He had a knee injury, he had some cartilage problems that every time he threw the ball, there would be a grimace of pain. He busted his thumb the last week of spring, was not able to play in the spring game. I think it's been tough to evaluate him.

"Joe Cox, you know, fiery competitor, accurate passer. Kind of loves the game, not gonna back down to anybody in competition. He reminds me a little bit of Eric Zeir, former Georgia quarterback, in his size and his mindset maybe so to speak.

"Then Matthew Stafford is a guy that is, you know, the biggest of the bunch. He's about 6'3", maybe 235, 240 pounds, true freshman. He wears it well. He has a tremendous arm. He's very intelligent, is trying to learn what to do, trying to keep pace as far as just understanding our system. That's his biggest downfall right now. We just can't play a guy based on potential right now. I don't want to look at our seniors and say, Hey, we're going to play Joe Cox or Stafford because we're going to get them ready for the future. No, we're not going to do that. We're going to try to win this year. Will it be Joe, Blake, Joe Cox, Stafford? I don't know. A lot of people are trying to make it a two-horse race between Joe T and Stafford, but there's more involved in that race than those two."

Running back Thomas Brown

One thing that Georgia's quarterback will have in his favor is one of the most talented and deepest backfields in the country. Three players return with starting experience led by Thomas Brown, something that Richt said makes for a good balance if used correctly. "I think if we took any one of those three guys in the season and made them the horse, so to speak, they'd get 12- to 1500 yards. I think all three of them are capable of that. We rushed for 15-, 1600 yards at the tailback position last year. So we ran the ball pretty good. We just spread the wealth, so to speak.

"I think you got to have at least two that can share it. If you got one guy carrying it 20 to 25 times a game, especially if it's a two- or three-year career, that guy's going to get beat up. Very rare that a guy will stay healthy and very rare that he'll have much left over at the end. Just by virtue of the fact that we have three that we can count on, I think it keeps those guys more healthy, it keeps them fresh in any given ballgame and throughout a season."

Defensively Georgia lost a lot of talent, particularly in the secondary where starters Tim Jennings, Demario Minter and Greg Blue must be replaced. With quality reserves such as Paul Oliver, Ramarcus Brown and others ready to step up, Richt said that he feels like the defense will be just fine in 2006. He credits the current state of the Georgia program to many things but most important is the talent available locally. That should be proven out again this season as Georgia will be tough to beat once again.

"I think the main thing is within about a couple months of being at Georgia, I didn't feel like we were hitting on all cylinders, but I felt like the potential at Georgia was almost limitless," Richt said. "I felt like if we just do things right; if we just work hard; recruit within the rules; expect these guys to do the right things on and off the field; just put a good; sound system in; do a good job of coaching it up; getting guys to buy in and play together, I just thought we could win. That's what we've done.

"So far it's really been great. I always felt like I would never sacrifice our integrity or sacrifice doing things in the right way just to try to win a ballgame. It's just not worth it. I'd just as soon go do something else for a living. We just try to do things as straight up, as good as they can be done, and hope that it's good enough. The fact that we're in the state of Georgia, which has so many tremendous players, that in itself may be the number one reason why we're winning."

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