Dawgs' Freshmen Start College Football

ATHENS – For 25 scholarship freshman, Georgia's football season starts soon. Those players, the group that signed in February minus two academic casualties, will report officially to campus by this afternoon. For the rest of Bulldog Nation, the season starts Saturday.

That's when the entire team – including the four players auditioning to be the starting quarterback – will take the field for the first practice of 2006.

Senior Joe Tereshinski will enter practice as the No. 1 quarterback, but that is little more than an honorary title. Coach Mark Richt has insisted all four players – Tereshinski, sophomore Blake Barnes, redshirt freshman Joe Cox and true freshman Matthew Stafford – all have an equal chance to earn the job.

However, many observers are skeptical of that assertion, as is one of the participants.

"No matter how much he says it's a wide-open race, like every human being, he's got to have some kind of a gut feeling," Stafford said.

Stafford appears to be the biggest threat to Tereshinski, partially because of all the fanfare that came along with his signing in February and partially because of the powerful right arm that has earned him the nickname "Howitzer" from quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo.

Richt has freely floated the idea of playing two quarterbacks, at least to begin the season, and Stafford admitted this week he'll be disappointed if he's not one of those.

"It wouldn't have anything to do with me being disappointed in them not giving me the opportunity. It would be me disappointed in myself," he said. "I feel like I have the ability to be out there. I feel like I'm a good competitor. When it comes to things like this, I think I can raise my level of play. If I'm not out there, it means I didn't do it as well as I thought.

"I'd love nothing more than to be out there every snap, but you'd hear the same thing from every single one of us."

Barnes and Cox certainly haven't joined the legions of people counting them out of the race.

"I really feel like everybody is going to be given an equal shot," Barnes said. "I'm finding myself more and more excited. Competition is fun. There's nothing to be nervous about."

Richt hopes to name a starter or a two-man rotation at least a week before the Sept. 2 season opener against Western Kentucky. The days or weeks leading up to his decision are bound to be stressful for Georgia's sixth-year coach trying to decided among four players for the most important position on the field.

"I wouldn't want that job myself," Stafford said. "I think about that a lot, how tough that would be on somebody."

Unlike most of the freshmen who will report today, Stafford graduated high school early and participated in spring practice with the Bulldogs. Georgia signed 27 players in February, but Perry offensive lineman Ben Harden and Ocilla offensive lineman Justin Anderson failed to meet academic standards and are expectd to go to Hargrave Military Academy this semester.

Offensive lineman Clifton Geathers, who committed to the Bulldogs after signing day but never signed a letter of intent, also will not report this year.

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