Stafford's stability could lead to efficiency

ATHENS – After two hours of practice, Matthew Stafford didn't have the energy for math.

"Oh my gosh, I don't know," he said. "How many (passes) do you think I threw today? Maybe 200."

The subject was how many times between now and Georgia's 2007 season opener against Oklahoma State on Sept. 1 will the Bulldogs sophomore quarterback throw to his receivers, running backs and tight ends.

"I have no idea," Stafford said. "You can do the math."

OK. At 200 passes times 15 spring workouts, that's 3,000. Add in another 1,100 for the offseason drills known as "pass skeleton" (approximately 22 sessions times a Stafford-estimated 50 throws each) and that makes more than 4,000 chances for Stafford and his teammates to get into sync.

"All that helps," senior wide receiver A.J. Bryant said. "Timing is such a big deal, especially playing against good defensive backs or a good defense. If your timing is off and you've got a quarterback just guessing when you're coming out of a break, it'd be pretty ugly out there."

It was pretty ugly at times for the Bulldogs in 2006. Their passing offense finished ninth in the SEC (184.4 yards per game) using three different starting quarterbacks and accounted for more interceptions (16) than all but one team in the league.

Georgia hopes that more stability over the next six months will translate into more efficiency in the fall. Last spring, summer and fall, Stafford shared repetitions with three other quarterbacks vying for the starting job, and veteran Joe Tereshinski took the bulk of those. Now, even though backups Joe Cox and Blake Barnes continue to get work in practice, the load is fully on Stafford.

"I think that'll help some definitely," he said. "Just being in the system another year is definitely going to help. And not worrying about every rep. It's kind of nice to know where you stand. It's something that I'm sure is going to help the offense start clicking."

Stafford completed 52.7 percent of his passes and threw for 1,749 yards, seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year. He accounted for 73 percent of the Bulldogs' passing offense, but that number will be 100 percent or close to it if he stays healthy this season.

"We've got to put more on him to maximize our ability on offense," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.

The first two words Stafford uses to describe the 2006 season are "hectic" and "stressful." This spring should be anything but now that he is more comfortable in the offense and his position in it.

"It can only help out having that consistency," said senior wide receiver Sean Bailey, who sat out last season due to a knee injury but practiced with the team for the final half of the season. "You have someone who you know is going to be there, and it makes the timing better because you know exactly who's going to be in there and you have a chemistry that's being built all offseason. That's what we're doing now, building that timing and that chemistry."

The coaches, too, will be better prepared to work with Stafford, Richt said.

"It should help everybody," he said. "The receivers can get used to who the No. 1 guy is and what to expect when the ball is coming their way. I think just the cadence of how a guy handles the huddle, how he handles the game is important. For the coaches, (it helps) to know the strengths and weaknesses of your starter and be able to build a plan around him rather than build a plan around two or three guys."

The Bulldogs took a day off Tuesday and return to the field for their second spring practice this afternoon. For Stafford, that's 200 more chances to get things just right.

"We do do a ton, and if you do a lot the right way," he said, "it's bound to work."

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