Bulldogs Putting Pieces In Place

HOOVER, Ala. -- D.J. Shockley has been the Southeastern Conference's most well-known backup quarterback the past three seasons.

The former Parade All-American didn't earn that status because of any memorable relief efforts or late-game heroics in his 26 appearances. It was because of his bad luck, arriving the year David Greene earned the starting job, held it for four years and became the winningest quarterback in NCAA history (42-10).

But the multi-talented quarterback that patiently waited three long years to showcase his skills will get his first -- and final -- opportunity to lead Georgia in 2005.

"I am very excited about what's going to happen with D.J. Shockley," coach Mark Richt said during SEC Media Days. "He is a great football player. He is a guy that's going to be a treat for all the Georgia fans and I am just happy for him.

"You know, guys can mope about the situation. Or guys decide that I just don't want to be here and take off. He didn't do that."

Shockley will find out if it was worth the wait, taking the reins in a year Georgia isn't favored to claim the SEC Eastern Division crown because of the departure of a small, but influential senior class. In addition to Greene, the Bulldogs will do battle without defensive end David Pollack, safety Thomas Davis, fullback Jeremy Thomas, linebackers Arnold Harrison and Odell Thurman and wide receivers Reggie Brown and Fred Gibson for the first time in Richt's tenure.

The eight players were integral pieces of three 10-win seasons and the 2002 SEC Championship.

But, starting with Shockley, Richt believes the Bulldogs still have the necessary parts to maintain their success.

"It would be nice to be able to continue the momentum that we have right now," Richt said. "We finished third and sixth and sixth in the coaches' poll the last three years. We have won over 10 games in the last three years.

"You want to keep those types of streaks going. It is exciting for your program if you can do that."

Georgia's offense will undergo some changes with Shockley at the helm, taking advantage of his abilities to run and pass effectively.

Greene was the quintessential pocket passer that made sound decisions and put the ball in the hands of playmakers. Shockley, who has thrown for 967 career yards and rushed for 329 more, will be utilized as a dual-threat and is viewed as one of the Bulldogs' most explosive weapons.

"It's going to be different," said guard Max Jean-Gilles. "We're going to have a more agile quarterback. It will be a more up-tempo offense.

"We have to be in shape to block for Shock."

Of course, Shockley won't have to carry the load alone because he's surrounded by a stable of talented tailbacks. Thomas Brown, Danny Ware and Tyson Browning each started games last season. Kregg Lumpkin would've if not for a knee injury.

Georgia's wide receivers struggled throughout spring practice and the group had just 23 catches between them last season. Shockley will have at least one reliable target in senior tight end Leonard Pope (6-foot-8, 250 pounds).

In addition, Georgia returns all five starters on an offensive line that took its share of lumps as freshmen and sophomores in 2003. Jean-Gilles is the leader of the group, but Dennis Roland, Daniel Inman, Nick Jones and Russ Tanner are experienced.

"All these guys had to play (in 2003)," Richt said. "I mean, they weren't ready to play. We got sacked 47 times. By the grace of God, we still won 11 games.

"Now, these same guys are grown up. They are bigger, they're stronger, more experienced and confident. You know they're going to play better than they did the last two years and D.J. will benefit from that."

Defensively, Pollack, who recorded a school-record 36 career sacks, is the most notable name missing. But Richt said Georgia is in great shape with talented linemen like Quentin Moses, Charles Johnson, Kedric Golston and Gerald Anderson.

"The thing is, people don't pay attention to the backups when you have a great guy like Pollack," Anderson said. "But we have Quentin Moses now who has the potential to be better than Pollack if he works hard."

Thomas Davis, who led the team in tackles last season and was an unsung hero, is gone as well. Richt is confident Georgia's back end will be protected with another big hitter, Greg Blue, who slides from strong to free safety.

The Bulldogs still have plenty of work to do at linebacker, where several players are battling for starting spots. Josh Johnson and Derrick White are no longer with the team after off-the-field troubles, leaving the Bulldogs with little depth.

But, like several other positions, Richt is confident someone will step into starting roles and help Georgia compete for the SEC Eastern Division crown.

"Hopefully there are some guys that are waiting in the wings that will pick up the slack," Richt said.

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