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March 5, 2006

UGA QB competition wide open

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ATHENS, Ga. - Like Matthew Stafford, Joe Tereshinski enrolled at Georgia before signing a scholarship with the Bulldogs.

Unlike Stafford, Tereshinski was hardly a coveted recruit when he began his college football career in 2002.

Georgia coach Mark Richt insists reputation will hold little sway when the Bulldogs open spring football practice Saturday morning.

''I really am sincere when I say that it's wide-open,'' Richt said. ''We want to keep a completely open mind but be as fair as we can.''

Richt has scheduled 13 workouts over the next five weeks before spring ends with the G-Day scrimmage April 8 at Sanford Stadium.

Along with Blake Barnes and Joe Cox, Tereshinski and Stafford are seeking to earn the job D.J. Shockley vacated after leading Georgia to a 10-3 record, an SEC title and a No. 10 ranking.

Tereshinski, who's named after a grandfather who helped Georgia win two Southeastern Conference titles in the 1940s and a father who was the starting center on coach Vince Dooley's 1976 SEC championship team, played at Athens Academy, a small private school, before graduating early and moving across town five years ago.

With David Greene and Shockley ahead of him on the depth chart, Tereshinski never suffered an outsized ego. Playing special teams - how many quarterbacks line up on punt coverage? - assured constant reality checks.

Tereshinski has a career record of 0-1 after Shockley injured his knee and couldn't start against Florida last year. The Bulldogs were undefeated and ranked No. 4 when the Gators sank their national championship hopes in a 14-10 loss.

That setback only hardened Tereshinski's resolve, however, that he could deliver better results if afforded the chance.

''I feel like I know the system the best,'' Tereshinski said. ''I can run all of the plays effectively and have a good grasp of timing with players.''

Stafford's blue-chip pedigree reached Texas-sized proportions after he led his Dallas school, Highland Park, to a state title for the first time since 1957.

At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Stafford used a considerable size advantage to complete 209 of 322 passes for 4,018 yards and 38 touchdowns as a senior. He ran 42 times for 212 yards and eight TDs.

The last Georgia quarterback to enroll early, participate in spring practice and affect his freshman season was Eric Zeier in 1991.

Quincy Carter, who gave up his minor-league baseball career after the '97 season, was admitted to the university the following March, but restrictions on his scholarship release from Georgia Tech prohibited him from joining the team until summer.

Though he enrolled three months before Carter, Daniel Cobb of Marietta couldn't beat out the former Southwest DeKalb standout. Cobb's early arrival marked the third straight year that an incoming freshman was unsuccessful in attempting to start at quarterback.

Mike Usry of Tallahassee, Fla., fell short in trying to move past incumbent Mike Bobo in 1996. The following year, Nate Hybl of Hazelhurst, Ga., failed to unseat Bobo, a rising senior.

Even Zeier, who became the most prolific passer in school history, had to wait until the sixth game of '91 before coach Ray Goff benched senior Greg Talley.

Stafford's quest is about to begin, but Richt likes the newcomer's mental and emotional makeup.

''If he really wanted the hype, he would've waited till the last day to decide what to do,'' Richt said. ''I don't think there would've been any doubt that he would've been named quarterback of the world.''

Running back Thomas Brown, who led Georgia with 785 yards last season, believes Tereshinski deserves the chance to be a frontrunner.

''He's done everything they've asked him to do,'' said Brown, a rising junior and just one of four returning offensive starters. ''Joe T knows exactly what we expect the position to do.''

With Brown, Danny Ware and Kregg Lumpkin all returning next season, the Bulldogs could have such a strong ground attack that they won't need to rely heavily on passing too early in the season.

Richt indicated that he most likely will wait until August to name a starting QB, which suits Tereshinski fine.

''I do feel like I have a step going into spring,'' Tereshinski said, ''but it's not a giant step, by any means.''

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

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