April 1, 2009

Cox cements starting status

It's only natural for some to perhaps be a little nervous about Georgia's quarterback situation given that Matthew Stafford now has moved on to the NFL.

But according to Bulldog offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, fifth-year senior Joe Cox has things well in hand.

In other words, while there's "technically" an open competition for the starting job, there's extremely little doubt to who the Bulldogs' quarterback will be when Georgia opens its 2009 season at Oklahoma State.

"I've been very pleased with Joe. We are competing for that job but Cox has embraced the role of starting quarterback, not only that he wants to be the starter but he wants to be the leader of this football team," Bobo said. "I really like his preparation day in and day out, his approach to each practice and he's trying to lead these guys. He's doing things the right way, he believes in what Coach (Mark) Richt is saying about the "Georgia way" and he's preaching that to his teammates. I've been real excited with his play, how he's delivering the ball and how he's carried the offense this spring."

Cox is no stranger to following in the footsteps of talented quarterbacks.

At Charlotte's Independence High, Cox backed up former Florida standout Chris Leak before finally assuming the starting role as a senior when he earned prep All-American status after throwing for a North Carolina state record 66 touchdowns.

Obviously, Cox won't be reproducing those types of numbers for the Bulldogs this fall, but that experience of knowing what it's like to follow a great QB is another intangible that Bobo believes will serve him well.

"That's one of the main reasons we recruited Joe Cox for that intangible reason he showed in school, leadership and how he was behind Chris Leak in high school and how he came in following a guy that's a "Five-Star" player," Bobo said. "That put a lot of pressure on him in high school. (Leak) had won so many games in a row but (Cox) stepped in and really relished that role that he was going to take advantage of it. I think he's doing the same thing here. I'm excited for him.

"His teammates are excited for him and they're going to play for him. He is productive when he's in there. They've seen him be productive in practice and they've seen him been very productive thus far this spring."

Georgia's first scrimmage of the spring Monday at Sanford Stadium netted some respectable results for Cox, who completed 9-of-13 passes for 70 yards with no interception and one touchdown.

Although both the offense and defense were given mixed reviews by Richt following the nearly two-hour workout, Cox said he was pleased with what he saw.

"We scored on some good drives and I thought controlled the ball well," Cox said. "But the defense had a good day, too. They stopped us on one 8-play drive early on, but overall I thought we were able to do some good things."

As for the rest of the quarterbacks, freshman Aaron Murray completed 4-of-6 passes for 131 yards with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Spellman and had no interceptions while Logan Gray went 3-for-8 for 64 yards while Zach Mettenberger completed 1-of-10 passes for 4 yards, although Richt did say that the hard-throwing former Oconee County standout had a couple of passes dropped. Gray and Mettenberger each threw an interception.

"Both of those guys have had their moments but overall, those two young guys, I can't say how much I've been impressed with their composure coming after practice," Bobo said. "They're not getting rattled out there. They should still be in high school, but they're stepping up, they're taking charge and showing leadership and doing a nice job.

While Cox is entrenched as the Bulldogs' starter, Bobo did seem to leave a crack in the door as to who might be the top backup this fall, although he later qualified that remark by stating that Gray, because of his experience, probably needs to be that man.

"Most definitely we've got to find out who the backup is. It's important to find out who the backup is and it's important for Logan to establish himself as the backup at that position," Bobo said. "We know Logan brings a different dimension, but this spring is not about scheming and getting him into space, it's about developing him as a quarterback and halfway through spring he's doing a nice job."

As for Murray and Mettenberger, Bobo said he just wants them to get comfortable before making any future plans.

"I'm not ready to judge these guys as to whether or not they'll be able to help us this fall," Bobo said. "I know their heads are spinning. I just want them to go out with a great attitude every day and come with the same enthusiasm each and every day. So far, they've done that."

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