Stafford fit and ready for 2007

Matthew Stafford

ATHENS – The first time Dannell Ellerbe laid eyes on Matthew Stafford, he didn't know what to think. The veteran Georgia linebacker saw the then-freshman for the first time in a classroom last spring.

"I didn't know who he was," Ellerbe said. "They were like, ‘He's the quarterback.' I thought he was the new fullback."

An honest mistake. The Bulldogs' sophomore quarterback had the body of a blocking back when he first enrolled at Georgia. On the first day of fall camp last year, Stafford weighed 248 pounds, Coach Mark Richt said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo "and I were just shaking our head," Richt said. "That day we were like, ‘He's redshirting for sure.' The first day of practice, he was just drenched in sweat."

When the No. 13 Bulldogs begin the 2007 season Saturday against Oklahoma State in Sanford Stadium (6:45 p.m. ESPN2), Stafford will weigh a little less than 230 pounds.

"His body has gone through a metamorphosis," said Andrew McKay, a student assistant with Georgia's strength and conditioning program. "It's gone from kind of a Sponge Bob Square Pants thing to an elusive and sleek quarterback."

McKay and Jake Miller, another student assistant, were in charge of working with the quarterbacks in the Bulldogs' summer conditioning session this year. McKay, a quarterback at Liberty College and in the Arena Football League, used a training regime he has tested on himself for several seasons.

"We basically tried to adapt the workout to be functional for them on the field," McKay said. "I really tried to tailor my workouts so when I came here this summer, I knew how it would affect my game. I could say to them, ‘I did this, and this is how it made me feel.' I'm not just blindly throwing stuff at them and saying, ‘Go do this and see how it makes you feel.'"

McKay almost eliminated bench pressing from his quarterbacks' routine. Instead, they focused on lifts like the clean and jerk that work the most amount of muscles in the body.

"Because that's how they throw," McKay said.

The quarterbacks also focused on balance and quickness, performing exercises that increased the speed of their first step, the most important for buying time to throw the ball.

"I think it helps a lot," said Stafford, who threw for 1,749 yards, seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions last year. "I think my feet are quicker. I think I'm on balance more. I won't get tired toward the end of games or anything like that. I didn't realize it then but being in better shape now I realize where I was last year."

Stafford's fundamentals suffered last year when he got tired, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. The quarterback struggled when asked to play an entire game, Richt said.

"Quarterback is very much like a pitcher in baseball. If a pitcher's legs give out on him, he's really not very effective. He loses his fundamentals, and he doesn't have much power. He's in much better shape, and he knows it.

"He'll do much better."

Not only that, but "he looks in shape," Ellerbe said.

"He just looks good," he said.

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