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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Freshmen QBs Learn on the Fly

Joe Cox knows his job about as well as anyone on the practice fields at Georgia, but it wasn't always that way. So when he watches freshmen quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger struggle through another practice session this spring, it isn't without a healthy dose of empathy and a handful of fond-but-embarrassing memories.

Cox was reflecting on his early days at Georgia earlier this week when he decided it was time to give the freshmen a history lesson.

"If you want to see a funny scrimmage," Cox told them, pulling out some film without actually finishing his sentence.

The three quarterbacks sat in the film room and watched footage of Georgia's first spring scrimmage of 2006. Cox was a redshirt freshman at the time. He was splitting snaps with Matthew Stafford, then a new arrival on campus, but now a potential top overall selection in the NFL draft.

"We watched some of those clips and got a good laugh out of it," Cox said. "We were all running around with no idea what to do."

Watching Monday's first scrimmage of the spring this season, Cox knew Mettenberger and Murray weren't a whole lot better off than he and Stafford were three years earlier, but they at least looked the part.

Murray had a break-out performance running with Georgia's second-team offense. He completed 4-of-6 passes for 131 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Spellman that triggered a major momentum shift for the offense.

Mettenberger struggled statistically, completing just 1-of-10 passes, but head coach Mark Richt was quick to point out that several of his passes were dropped by receivers.

"I do like the rookies," Richt said. "They've got ability. Considering how little they know right now, they do have confidence when they walk in the huddle. You have to kind of spoon-feed them a little right now, but they're getting there. They'll be alright."

But the numbers weren't all that important anyway, Cox insisted. The two quarterbacks carried themselves with confidence, and that was more than he could say about his spring scrimmage debut three years ago.

"They both got a lot of reps, and they both looked good," Cox said. "Coach (Mike) Bobo said the one thing he was impressed with with everybody was huddle presence, and he was laughing looking at those two guys saying, 'Even if you didn't know what was going on, you sounded good in the huddle, and you said it with authority.'"

The depth chart at quarterback hasn't changed any since spring practice began two weeks ago, Richt said. Rising sophomore Logan Gray remains the primary back-up behind Cox, and the true freshmen are still jockeying for position while simply trying to keep their heads on straight. But it's a learning process, and Richt said he's pleased with how things are progressing.

"Logan certainly is ahead of the other two as far as understanding what to do, and I think he's progressing well," Richt said. "The other two are learning, but they're talented. They don't know enough to go out there and play right now. They're going through that process of learning how to play quarterback at Georgia."

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