ATHENS, Ga. — His financial advisors have been offering advice on real-estate purchases, and NFL teams have been wheeling and dealing with his future on the line, but Matthew Stafford is keeping his cool despite the nearly daily discussion of where he might go in next month’s NFL draft.
“That’s one of his positives,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s not really fazed by that. People talk about pressure, but there was a lot of pressure playing here at the University of Georgia, having to start as a freshman and going through some of those struggles. For him to succeed the way he did and get better every year, I think he’ll do the same things in the pros.”
Stafford will be back in Athens next week to get ready for Georgia’s pro day, which will be held March 19.
Stafford has been widely rumored to be the first overall selection in the draft by the Detroit Lions, but nothing is guaranteed. Recent roster moves by Detroit and Kansas City — two teams in need of quarterbacks, have clouded the prognostications a bit, but head coach Mark Richt said his former quarterback is focused more on what he’ll do after the draft than where he goes on draft day.
“It sounds like he’s excited about the possibility of being the first pick of the draft, and I think it’s pretty obvious he’s going to have a wonderful opportunity to have a wonderful NFL career,” Richt said. “This is just the beginning for him.”
While Stafford waits and wonders what the future might hold, Georgia’s coaches are worrying about how their depth chart might look without him in 2009.
Joe Cox is the clear-cut starter as spring practice opens, but beyond that, anything can happen. Logan Gray has the inside track on the No. 2 job but hasn’t solidified his role yet.
Freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger both enrolled early this spring, and while Bobo said he would like to redshirt both of them, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility that one or both could earn some playing time right away.
“Personally I’d like to redshirt both of them, but who knows?” Bobo said. “It depends on how Logan Gray progresses and what we think of him at the quarterback position and if we feel we have enough depth.”
Both Mettenberger and Murray were highly recruited coming out of high school, and the common perception was that one could land a spot on the Bulldogs’ game-day depth chart, while the other would redshirt, preserving an extra year of eligibility after the other graduated.
That still might happen, Bobo said, but he won’t use that rationale to make his final decisions.
“The spring is going to be to help them learn what we’re doing so they can compete in the fall,” Bobo said. “I don’t want a guy ready to play and burn his redshirt just because they’re in the same class and we want separation. I want to do what’s best for both kids.”
A year ago, Stacy Searels was lauded as a miracle worker for piecing together a patchwork offensive line filled with freshmen despite numerous injuries.
This year, he’ll have a new challenge — finding similar success with an equally youthful group of running backs.
Searels was given the title of running game coordinator this offseason, and while Bryan McClendon will serve as the position coach for runners, fullback Fred Munzenmaier said he is excited to have input from Searels, too.
“I haven’t seen a whole lot of offensive line coaches, but I’ve never seen anybody know so much or have so many ideas of what to do as he does,” Munzenmaier said.
Since the success of the running backs rests so much on the productivity of the linemen, Munzenmaier said Searels’ new role creates a perfect relationship that may give Georgia’s running game a leg up on the competition this season.
“We break up into these segment meetings and we’re learning the game plan from two different coaches,” Munzenmaier said. “But the fact that they like to teach us what the other positions are doing, too, and we know their blocking schemes and what we’re supposed to do, it really makes it easy to translate that onto the field and all come together and make that synergy.”