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November 9, 2005

D.J. Shockley returns for UGA

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ATHENS, Ga. - D.J. Shockley has watched plenty of games from the sideline. After all, he spent nearly his entire Georgia career as a backup.

That didn't make it any easier to stand around during the Bulldogs' first loss of the season.

"It was very rough to sit on the sideline on not be able to do anything to help my team," Shockley said Tuesday. "I felt kind of terrible."

Barring any setbacks, the senior quarterback will return for No. 9 Georgia's crucial game against 15th-ranked Auburn on Saturday, wearing a brace on his ailing left knee.

Shockley sat out the last game, feeling helpless as the Bulldogs' unbeaten season was snuffed out by a 14-10 loss to Florida. This wasn't like the other seasons, when his second-string status provided a different view from the sideline.

"I knew I had played a huge part with this team being successful," Shockley said. "It was rough in that respect. We all had put so much into this season."

The season's not over, not by a long shot. Georgia (7-1) still has the inside track to the Southeastern Conference championship game, holding a one-game lead over Florida in the East Division.

If the Bulldogs can win their last two league games against Auburn (7-2) and lowly Kentucky, they'll clinch a spot in the Dec. 3 title game, held right down the road at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Shockley returned to practice last week, getting a chance to test his knee slowly since the Bulldogs were off. On Monday, with a lighter brace on his knee, he resumed his normal practice routine.

"Right now, we think he'll be 100 percent," coach Mark Richt said. "(Monday) was the first time we let him do everything, and he had no setbacks. I watched him close, and I saw no signs of him limping around or gimping around."

The Bulldogs certainly feel better with Shockley back on the field. No offense to backup quarterback Joe Tereshinski, but it's clear that Shockley is a much more dangerous weapon.

He leads the SEC and ranks 11th nationally in passing efficiency, throwing 12 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also is a threat to run, ranking third on the team with 215 yards and scoring three touchdowns.

"Having him on the field is going to be an advantage for us," running back Thomas Brown said. "He brings a different element to the offense. He can scramble and run around a little bit, which gives the receivers extra time to get open."

Plus, Shockley is one of the most respected leaders on the team, a player who earned the loyalty of his peers by deciding to stay at Georgia even though it meant spending three seasons on the bench behind David Greene.

"He looks like the same ol' Shock to me," receiver Bryan McClendon said. "I know a lot of guys, including myself, who have come back from injuries and try to win the Heisman on every play. But he just picked up where he left off."

Not exactly. Shockley will have to wear the brace - most likely for the rest of the season - to protect against further damage to his knee.

It could affect the way he plays, especially when he decides to take off with the ball under his arm. Then again, Shockley has waited too long, gone through too much, come too far to let some contraption on his knee get in the way.

"I'm getting comfortable with it," he insisted. "By Saturday, I should be used to it and not feeling anything. There's no restrictions with the brace."

Shockley certainly wouldn't have complained about wearing a brace when he was tackled awkwardly in the second quarter of the Oct. 22 game against Arkansas.

Sprawled on the Sanford Stadium turf, he knew something was wrong and feared the worst.

"At first, I was kind of devastated," Shockley said. "I was really worried. The knee felt really bad. I didn't know what to expect."

Later, an MRI confirmed that he merely sprained the medial collateral ligament.

"When they told me what it actually was, I think the knee stopped hurting altogether," he said.

Not soon enough for Shockley to play against the Gators. All he could do was watch as Florida ended the dream of a perfect season.

"I got to see things from a different angle," he said. "Losing a game when you've had so much to do with the team affects you differently than if you don't play at all."

For more coverage of the Georgia Bulldogs, check out UGASports.com.



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