Cutler to challange Dawgs

ATHENS — When he made the decision to attend Vanderbilt, Jay Cutler also made peace with living his life in the shadows of college football. The big-time spotlight, and all the acclaim that comes with it, doesn't reach Nashville, Tenn., very often.

So Cutler will have to settle for being the most popular guy at Georgia's practices this week.

"I think Cutler is about as good a quarterback as we'll face this year," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said.

Added defensive assistant Willie Martinez: "We have our work cut out for us because that quarterback is really good. We really like him."

Defensive assistant Rodney Garner: "They do it all (on offense), plus they have a real good quarterback who is doing it."

Cutler, a junior from Santa Claus, Ind., is third in the SEC and 16th in the nation this year in passing efficiency. He is also third in the league in passing yards per game (185.6), while running the option effectively for the Commodores.

"He's one of the best athletes as far as quarterbacks in the league," said Georgia quarterback David Greene, who was impressed by Cutler when he watched tape from Vanderbilt's game with South Carolina this year.

"He's definitely one of the most underrated guys I've seen. He's a heck of a player."

Cutler and the Commodores (1-4, 1-2 SEC) play No. 12 Georgia (4-1, 2-1) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. It doesn't bother him that more than half the 92,000 fans in Sanford Stadium probably will have never heard of him, he says.

"That's not something I look at," he said. "The most important thing I can do is try and lead my team to victory. I may not get the attention as some of the other guys, but, again, I really don't care. I just want to try to win here."

He hasn't done much of that, which may explain his lack of noteriety. He is 5-24 in his career, and the Commodores are in the midst of another disastrous season. Still, Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson is quick to defend his quarterback.

"I'm sure it's frustrating for Jay, but he's a great competitor and he's out there every day trying to get better," Johnson said. "Jay has done everything we've asked him to do and proven he can do what we need him to do to win games."

Johnson can reel off a handful of potentially key plays Cutler has made in this year that were called back due to penalties.

"Jay has made the plays sometimes and circumstances have worked against us to be able to take advantage of those, but he's made them," Johnson said.

Cutler has completed an SEC-best 65.5 percent of his passes this year and totaled 928 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He also is his team's second-leading rusher with 204 yards.

He's on pace to finish second on Vandy's all-time passing list behind Greg Zolman. If he picks up his pace just slightly, he'll pass Zolman's 7,981 yards.

Cutler was recruited by Purdue, Illinois, Duke and Cincinnati. He almost became a Boilermaker before deciding he wanted to play in the SEC.

"It's got the best football," he said, "and I wanted to play against the best."

No matter the consequences.

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