QB battle gets started

Matthew Stafford

ATHENS – Mikey Henderson made a position change Saturday as Georgia began spring football drills. A few notable players were added to the team's injury list, and a handful of guys made interesting number changes.

Nobody much cared about any of that, though. All eyes, not to mention as many as 10 cameras at one point in the morning, were focused on the four quarterbacks battling to be the Bulldogs starter in 2006.

"You're at a major college like the University of Georgia and people want to know who's playing quarterback," quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said. "That comes with the job, the pressure, and you've got to have a guy who can handle that."

What most people want to know is: Can incoming freshman Matthew Stafford handle it? Saturday, a two-hour workout in shorts and helmets, was his first practice at Georgia. "It was pretty good," said Stafford, who was considered one of the top two high school quarterbacks in the country last year. "I definitely made freshman mistakes, no doubt it. I had a little trouble a couple times getting the snap and (looking away from) my No. 1 receiver, but that just comes with time. I think I did pretty well for a first practice."

Stafford has yet to officially enter the competition for the starting job with Joe Tereshinski, Blake Barnes and Joe Cox, Coach Mark Richt said. Tereshinski and Barnes split time with the No. 1 offense, and Stafford and Cox split time with the No. 2 offense, Bobo said.

"The only competition that (Stafford) is doing right now is just trying to learn what to do," Richt said. "The other three guys, even four guys when you count (walk-on Nick) Dalton, have a lot better idea of what to do, even on the basics of calling the cadence. He's a talented passer. I think we all know that, and you can tell he's going full speed as far as trying to learn, but there's so much to learn in such a short amount of time."

Georgia will have 14 more spring practices, including the April 8 G-Day game. The Bulldogs will take the field again Monday.

"It's a process for" Stafford, Bobo said. "He's basically learning what to call a (defensive) front and how to get a snap, but when he got that part, I thought he did a good job today. You can just tell he's got a natural ball release and velocity on the football. He does an outstanding job throwing the football. It's just getting the mental part."

Stafford didn't notice the swarm of media members following him through the first 20 minutes of practice and wasn't nervous on his first day, he said. (Members of the media were only allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice, which a long-standing rule at Georgia.)

"It's not like they're going to name a starter after the first day, and I know that," he said. "I'm just trying to come out here and have fun and learn as much as I can."

Stafford was wearing his familiar No. 7 on Saturday, the number he wore while throwing for 4,018 yards and 38 touchdowns last year at Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas. For Stafford to get his traditional number, redshirt freshman cornerback Bryan Evans, himself a star recruit a year ago, had to give it up. Evans has switched to the No. 3 worn for the last five years by quarterback D.J. Shockley.

"I'd had (No. 3) since I was 7 years old. I guess it worked out perfect with me and Stafford," Evans said. "They told me Stafford wanted No. 7, and I wanted No. 3 first, so it made that switch easy. It was mutual."

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