“He’s competed well, and he’s held off these young bucks and he deserves to start this ball game,” Coach Mark Richt said during a 9 p.m. teleconference Sunday. “That’s the one thing I know for certain.”
After Tereshinski, the depth chart gets less solid, but redshirt freshman Joe Cox has earned the backup job for now, Richt said. That leaves sophomore Blake Barnes and highly touted true freshman Matthew Stafford as co-No. 3s. At least two quarterbacks will play in the Sept. 2 season-opener against Western Kentucky, and the order of Cox, Barnes and Stafford could change between now and then, Richt said.
Tereshinski won the job mainly due to his experience in, and knowledge of, Georgia’s offense.
“Joe really does understand what we’re doing and why,” Richt said. “If people really understood what it takes nowadays to get everybody in position to win a game and run an offensive system… Defenses are so complicated now, you can’t blindly call some play and expect it to be successful. Joe T has been very solid all the way through and very consistent all the way through.”
Tereshinski hadn’t completed a collegiate pass until last year, when he was 25-of-49 for 371 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown. The 6-foot-3 Athens native started the Florida game in place of an injured D.J. Shockley and completed 8-of-21 passes with one interception and no touchdowns as the Bulldogs lost 14-10.
He was low-key in his reaction to the news, Richt said. None of the four quarterbacks could be reached for comment Sunday night.
“He is old school, and he’s pretty stoic,” Richt said. “He’s just a yes-sir, no-sir guy. I told him he was the guy, and he said, ‘Yes, sir.’ I told him he did a heck of a job and I was proud of him, and he said, ‘Yes, sir.’ I asked him if he had any questions, and he said, ‘No, sir.’
“He knows he’s got to perform. It’s not like he’s arrived and that’s the end of it. In some ways it’s just begun.”
Tereshinski will have to play well to hold onto the job, Richt said. Any one of the four quarterbacks still could end up the permanent starter, he said, depending on how the players ahead of them handle the pressure of the position and playing in a live game with live contact.
Tereshinski “may play lights out, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Richt said. “I hope whoever gets in there performs beautifully, but let’s just see. It’s very difficult to know the true answer until you play it out a little bit.”
Stafford’s position at the bottom of the depth chart is sure to unnerve some among Georgia’s rabid fan base who were certain the Dallas, Texas, product was the immediate future of the program. Stafford was a Parade Magazine All-American, the EA Sports national player of the year and considered one of the top two prep quarterbacks in the country last year after throwing for 4,018 yards and 38 touchdowns and leading Highland Park High School to a state championship.
However, hype had no place in the competition, Richt said.
“If we went strictly by that, we would have said, ‘Hey, you’re the starter’ when we signed him, but that’s not the right way to do things,” Richt said. “People have to earn their way.”
Stafford performed well this fall but never could match Tereshinski’s grasp on the offense, Richt said.
“When he does it right, it’s exciting to watch, there’s no doubt about it,” Richt said. “I can tell you where not disappointed in any way, shape or form with Matthew, but to get this season started, I feel like the other guys are a little more prepared at this moment to get that done.”
Before fall practice began, Stafford said he would be disappointed if he was not No. 1 or No. 2 on the depth chart, but added he would be mad at himself, not the coaching staff.
“He of course was not elated by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s a pretty mature kid and he realizes that this thing is not a sprint by any means,” Richt said. “This guy has his whole career ahead of him. He knows this is just the starting point. I can’t tell you exactly how he felt because I don’t know what’s in his mind or in his heart, but I’m sure he’s not excited.
Stafford may redshirt this season, Richt said.
Cox, 6-1, 218 pounds, was the Gatorade player of the year in North Carolina in 2004 after throwing for 4,509 yards and a state record 66 touchdown passes as a senior. He was 31-0 as the starting quarterback at Charlotte, N.C., powerhouse Independence High School. He redshirted last year and was named the Bulldogs’ outstanding offensive scout team player.
“His mechanics are very outstanding,” Richt said. “He’s a consistently accurate passer. Like everybody else, he’s learning the system more and more. Like all of them, he’s a real fierce competitors. Those are some of the things that have helped him get into that position.”
Barnes, 6-3, 220 pounds, played in two games last year, completing a total of two passes on three attempts for 9 yards. Considered a top 10 national quarterback coming out Baldwyn, Miss., Barnes picked the Bulldogs over Michigan, Ole Miss and Mississippi State.
“He had days where he was as good or better than any of them, but then he had days he was not as good,” Richt said. “The inconsistency probably got him more than anything.”
Richt had said he was going to announce the decision Monday but decided over the weekend, that he should tell each quarterback in an individual meeting on Sunday and therefore decided to make his decision public, he said.
“I think everyone of these guys could take us to victory,” he said, “but we’ve got to hone this thing in a little bit.”