ATHENS, Ga. — When Georgia left the field following an Independence Bowl win over Texas A&M, it officially marked the end of Joe Cox’s career at Georgia and the start of a new era at the quarterback position.
Rising junior Logan Gray will enter the spring as the Bulldogs’ only experienced quarterback, but the Georgia coaches still are waiting to learn whether Gray even plans to play quarterback when practice begins again.
“I think he’s trying to make a decision right now,” head coach Mark Richt said of Gray, who has considered moving to wide receiver, where he could earn more playing time down the road. “I don’t know for certain what he’ll come up with, but we want to respect what he wants to do. We didn’t put a timetable on that.”
Whether or not Gray swaps positions, it appears that freshmen Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger are far enough along that the coaching staff believes Georgia can win with one of them as the starter in 2010.
While both redshirted last season, Cox said they showed enough on the practice field to inspire confidence.
“They both have the ability, and they’re both really smart kids,” Cox said. “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.”
Room for improvement?
It’s hard for coaches to ask much more of A.J. Green, the All-SEC wide receiver who was virtually Georgia’s only playmaker during the early part of the 2009 season. But when putting his entire season into context, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo thinks there are still a few chinks in the armor that Green could improve upon during the offseason.
“He’s got to stay healthy for a full season,” Bobo said. “He’s got to get bigger and stronger. He’s got to be able to run routes with a little more consistency. There’s no denying his playmaking ability of catching the ball in the air and doing things when he has the ball in his hands. But it’s being more consistent and being able to finish the season and a good offseason in the weight room will help that.”
Green finished his freshman campaign by nearly eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark, but a nagging groin injury hampered him throughout the year. As a sophomore, Green finished with 53 catches and 808 yards receiving, but he missed three of Georgia’s final five games and reached the end zone just once after Oct. 3.
“He’s a tough kid and a physical kid,” Bobo said. “I think he wants to stay healthy for the entire season so he can do what he does for 12 games, and there’s no telling how good he can be or how many plays he can make for a full season.”
A year ago, January was filled with doctor’s visits and trips to the hospital for many of Georgia’s players. This year, Richt said the Bulldogs are hopeful that they will avoid the operating table altogether before spring practice begins in March.
“I don’t think there’s any,” Richt said. “The surgeries that have already happened are the only ones we anticipate this offseason, and that would be tremendous for us.”
Right tackle Josh Davis, who underwent two offseason shoulder surgeries last year, missed Georgia’s bowl game against Texas A&M, but Richt said he should be fine to return for spring practice.
Left tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who tore a knee ligament for the second straight season in Georgia’s opener against Oklahoma State, isn’t likely to participate in spring drills, Richt said, but is recovering quickly.
“I am glad it’s nothing serious with Josh and that he’ll be back and won’t have to deal with any offseason surgery,” Richt said. “I don’t think we expect Trinton to participate in any live contact in the spring, although we think he’ll be far enough along to do some walkthroughs.”
After scandals at Texas Tech and Kansas, coaches are getting more critical looks at how they motivate their players, but Richt said that won’t affect Georgia’s preparations.
“It won’t change one thing in regard to what we’re trying to get accomplished on the field,” Richt said. “I want our coaches to push the young men to do their very best. Not many young men can be at their best unless someone pushes them beyond their comfort zone. But there’s a way to do that that’s well within what every parent would want to be done.”