February 18, 2010

Future is now for young Bulldog QBs

Has there been a more maligned player in recent Bulldog history than former quarterback Joe Cox?

Cox faced the unenviable task of replacing the popular Matthew Stafford, who left school a year early to head for the NFL.

It was a smart move on Stafford's part. The strong-armed Texan went with the first pick of the draft to the Detroit Lions, made enough money to support several third-world countries leaving Cox in the position to try and fill his teammates' cleats.

Statistically, Cox's 2,584 yards and 24 touchdown passes were impressive enough, but 15 interceptions and overall inconsistency with his game rankled the collective brow of a win-hungry Bulldog Nation as Georgia muddled through 2009, finishing with a less-than-stellar 8-5 campaign.

While a season-ending victory over arch-rival Georgia Tech and subsequent win over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl helped ease some of the pain, it did little to overcome the angst caused by another big loss to Florida, plus defeats to league rivals Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee.

With Georgia set to begin spring practice on March 4, Bulldog fans - and even Mark Richt himself - are pinning their hopes on the trio of Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray.

Although some assume that the job is Murray's to lose, Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have made it clear that all three will begin the process on equal footing and will receive equal opportunities to win the job.

"They (Murray and Mettenberger) both have the ability and they're both really smart kids," Cox said in an interview with reporters late last year. ""I look at them and I know that both of them are past where I was my true freshman year in understanding what's going on. They adjusted rather quickly, and once both of them get a chance to compete with the first team and understand that it's open and this is their chance to play, that does a lot for your confidence level."

Murray said he's already started to prepare himself mentally for the battle that lies ahead.

Although he insists the competition will be a friendly one between himself, Mettenberger and Gray, he knows others outside the program who will want to have their say.

But he's not going to listen.

"I don't read the Internet or papers. Everyone's going to have their own opinion," Murray said. "There's going to be fans out there booing you or people rooting for Zach or Logan to start with. You can't let that get into your head; you've just got to go out there and know every day that I'm not competing against them, I'm not competing against the media and the fans. I'm competing against myself to get better every day. And that's my ultimate goal, to continue to strive to be the best quarterback I can be and not worry about the outside stuff."

Gray can certainly empathize with that.

Recent rumors of Gray changing positions and possibly transferring became so rampant last December that the Missouri cut himself off from media interviews to keep his situation from becoming too much of a distraction to the team.

Although Gray did not rule out trying another position down the road, he said recently that he's going into the spring with the idea of competing for the starting quarterback job.

However, questions over Gray's future did lead to the Bulldogs changing their mind about offering a quarterback for the class of 2010 and Georgia found its man when record-setting Hutson Mason signed with the program two weeks ago.

The hunt is already on for the Class of 2011.

With the uncertainty of Gray's future at quarterback and no other current player on the team with any game experience under center, Georgia is looking for an elite passer to take them into the next decade of SEC football. Four quarterbacks are currently on the board with offers, and they are among the best passers in the entire country.

Wayne (Oh.) quarterback Braxton Miller told UGASports Wednesday via text that he is definitely considering Georgia, and also that his coach has a connection to Head Coach Mark Richt because they both spent time at Boca Raton High School. Miller is a highly talented athlete who has yet to fully harness his skill set. Look for his recruitment to remain open for the foreseeable future.

Christian LeMay out of Butler, N.C. is one of the most polished passers in the entire country. Last year, while leading his team to a perfect 15-0 record, LeMay threw for 3,296 yards 44 touchdowns to only two interceptions and a 69 percent completion rate. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound quarterback recently named a top 10, and Georgia made the cut. UGASports also learned from Christian's father Stacy LeMay that Georgia will most likely be included in his son's upcoming cut to five schools.

Two in state targets the Bulldogs would like to bring in are North Gwinnett's C.J. Uzomah and Wilcox County's Nick Marshall.

Uzomah has a great frame at 6-foot-5, 235-pounds, and he dispelled any doubts the talented athlete could play quarterback by leading his Bulldog squad to their first ever region title. Uzomah has visited Athens multiple times, including two weeks ago at Georgia's first Junior Day. The Suwanee resident has mentioned plans to make his decision over the summer.

UGASports has kept an eye on Marshall since last spring, when his sophomore highlights showcased his rocket arm and uncanny ability to make tough throws downfield when flushed out of the pocket. Marshall has since exploded onto the scene, leading his team to the state championship and having a monster game at the Georgia Dome.

Georgia was first to offer Marshall in football, and Florida State, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt have followed with offers. Marshall has not decided if he is going to play basketball (where he is also a high major prospect and a target of Mark Fox) or football in college, but it appears that Georgia is in good shape with the top Peach State talent in either case.

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