Sleepless in Athens

Not all dogs have to howl to cause sleepless nights.

Just by suiting up for the Georgia Bulldogs, Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are causing plenty of them throughout the Southeastern Conference this preseason. Opposing coaches are losing sleep while figuring out ways to contain them. Meanwhile, Bulldog head man Mark Richt is losing sleep figuring out ways to utilize them.

Needless to say, Richt's task is a lot more fun.

Moreno, a 5-11, 207-pound sophomore, rushed for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall. Many analysts rate him the No. 1 back in college football for 2008.

Stafford, a 6-3, 237-pound junior, completed 55.7 percent of his passes for 2,523 yards and 19 TDs last fall in guiding Georgia to an 11-2 record and a No. 2 national ranking. Many analysts rate him and Florida's Tim Tebow the top two QBs in college football.

Richt admits that having two of the NCAA's 10 best weapons in the same backfield is kind of like celebrating Christmas morning every day.

"As far as being creative with those guys, Knowshon is versatile enough to do something besides just be an I-back, no question," the top Dawg said. "And Matthew's got much more running ability than I think people give him credit for."

Stafford rushed for minus-18 yards last fall, a far cry from Tebow's total of plus-895. Still, Richt considers his quarterback a running threat ... and cautions opponents to do the same.

"We have incorporated QB run with Matthew because he's a legitimate runner," the head man said. "He's a guy that, if you don't make a plan for him, then you could get hurt by him."

That doesn't mean Stafford will carry 27 times in a game, as Tebow did last fall vs. Ole Miss. It simply means Stafford can make plays with his feet, as well as his arm.

"We don't want to game-plan it where he's going to be the runner 10 or 20 times a game necessarily," Richt said. "But we'll pick our spots."

Few coaches are blessed to have a duo as dynamic as Moreno and Stafford once in a career. Richt is doing so twice. As offensive coordinator at Florida State in the 1990s, he worked with the talented tandem of quarterback Charlie Ward and tailback Warrick Dunn.

"Charlie Ward-Warrick Dunn was a pretty great tandem, no doubt," Richt recalled. "These guys, I don't know if they rival that or not. When you look at the production of Charlie and Warrick together, it's pretty outstanding, pretty spectacular. Will they (Moreno and Stafford) be as productive as those two? I don't know."

What Stafford and Moreno accomplished in 2007 is made all the more remarkable by the fact they were operating behind an offensive line that boasted three freshman starters. The '08 line should be considerably better, which should make Moreno and Stafford considerably better.

"A more mature line gives you more versatility," Richt conceded. "I mean, last year we had three freshmen starting for us, and you can't be quite as creative when the line can't quite hold up like you want it to down after down."

As Georgia's line improved last fall, so did the numbers posted by the Dogs' dynamic duo. Stafford put together five of his eight 200-yard passing days in Games 7 through 12. Moreno rushed for 766 of his 1,334 yards in Games 7 through 11.

"Hopefully we'll be a little bit better up front earlier in the season," Richt said, "and that will help us, too."


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