Kickoff to Georgia’s season is exactly four months away (Sept. 4 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette), so I figure it’s not too early to discuss match-ups. Specifically: quarterbacks. I bring this up because the excommunication of Zach Mettenberger, combined with Logan Gray’s uncertainty whether he even wants to stay in Athens, reaffirms that the starting job belongs to freshman Aaron Murray.
This makes Dogs’ fans nervous — not because Murray isn’t talented but because there’s really no safety net should he face-plant. So what I thought I’d do is walk through Georgia’s schedule and see just how big of a concern the quarterback match-ups are.
♦ LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE: I don’t know. I don’t care. Louisiana-Lafayette is in the Sun Belt. Am I going to be concerned about a quarterback in the Sun Belt? No.
♦ SOUTH CAROLINA: In theory, Stephen Garcia should give the Gamecocks an advantage. But he has been erratic and now coach Steve Spurrier is openly questioning the player’s level of commitment and threatening to throw the starting job open for competition. A motivation attempt? Maybe. But that doesn’t mean Garcia doesn’t have issues.
♦ ARKANSAS: Ryan Mallett. OK, this one is a slam dunk for the opponent. Mallett is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation (3,627 yards and 30 touchdowns last year) and could have turned pro as a third-year sophomore after last season. He will lead one of the SEC’s top offenses, unless Bobby Petrino creates a minor distraction like bolting in midseason.
♦ MISSISSIPPI STATE: Chris Relf is a first-time starter. He saw only limited action last season, sitting behind a guy (Tyson Lee) who finished with four touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Relf is a talented runner but nobody is certain about his ability to lead an offense. He has a lot to prove.
♦ COLORADO: The returning starter is junior Tyler Hanson, who showed improvement last year. But the Buffaloes have gone backwards in the last three seasons under coach Dan Hawkins (from 6 to 5 to 3 wins). His cumulative record:16-33. Hansen’s key numbers last season: 8 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 33 sacks. Ouch.
♦ TENNESSEE: Jonathan Crompton is gone. You can determine if that’s good news or bad news. A senior, Nick Stephens, left the team. That likely leaves junior college transfer Matt Simms (yes, Phil’s son) as the starter for coach Derek Dooley. Simms’ only competition is true freshman Tyler Bray. Hey, the Dogs may actually win this game.
♦ VANDERBILT: Chris Low, ESPN’s terrific SEC blogger, put it best after spring football: “Nobody won the quarterback battle, and it’s not because everybody was so effective.” The three names in the hat: Jared Funk, Larry Smith and Jordan Rodgers (another JC transfer). FYI: Vandy was last in scoring and next to last in offensive yardage in the SEC last season.
♦ KENTUCKY: Senior Mike Hartline has an impressive major: kinesiology. Not sure what else. He returns from a knee injury that wiped out half of last season and he’ll likely win the starting job. Before getting hurt last year, he was 79-for-133 with 6 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
♦ FLORIDA: The starting quarterback will not be Tim Tebow, who has completed his seeming 12 seasons of eligibility. But don’t get too excited. John Brantley may be pretty good. He is more of a classic throwing quarterback, and showed it last year when he did play: 36 for 48, 410 yards, 7 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. Then again, most of that damage against Troy and FIU. So yes, there are questions.
♦ IDAHO STATE: A Big Sky team that went 1-10 last year. See: Louisiana-Lafayette.
♦ AUBURN: The Tigers are going with another transfer, Cameron Newton. His name may sound familiar. He prepped at Westlake High in Atlanta and then went to Florida. During his redshirt sophomore season, he was arrested for stealing a laptop. Then he tossed it out of his dorm room window to hide it from the police, which I’m guessing negated the warranty. He spent last year at a junior college in Texas, presumably with a new laptop. For the record, he is big (6-6, 242) and has some talent, but obviously untested.
♦ GEORGIA TECH: Joshua Nesbitt represents one of the few solid returning starters Georgia will face. He runs the Jackets’ offense well and, for what it’s worth, is 1-1 against the Dogs as a starter.
So Georgia fans: Do you feel better now about how the Dogs match up?
Earlier post: Tuesday Countdown : Vicodin, hookers, Valdosta banning?