Georgia fans need to stop worrying about why the media and fans of other programs are questioning the Bulldogs' prospects for 2009 based on the loss of Matthew Stafford. Joe Cox is largely unknown beyond the Georgia fan base, and the fact that he is under such scrutiny clearly illustrates that the Dawgs are expected to have one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC every year.
In the conference's modern era (since 1992), Georgia has fielded Eric Zeier, Mike Bobo, Quincy Carter, David Greene, D.J. Shockley, and Matthew Stafford as the predominant starters. While there were moments when other quarterbacks received the starting nod, those six are the ones who led the Dawgs in the past 17 years.
While Georgia has not received recognition as a producer of great college quarterbacks, the record speaks for itself.
Zeier - Finished his career in Athens with 18 SEC passing records, and went on to play in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns.
Bobo - Set several passing records at UGA, and is currently the Offensive Coordinator for the Bulldogs who is largely responsible for the development of Greene, Shockley, and Stafford.
Greene - Four-year starter for Georgia who finished his career with more wins than any quarterback in college football history with 42, and SEC career leader in yards gained with 11,270. He went on to play in the NFL.
Shockley - Following three years of being the number two quarterback behind Greene, Shockley passed for over 2,500 yards while leading the Bulldogs to an SEC Championship in 2005. He is currently with the Atlanta Falcons.
Stafford - After three seasons with the Bulldogs, the Detroit Lions choose Stafford as the first pick in the 2009 NFL draft and signed him to a $41.7 million guaranteed contract, which, should he stay with the Lions for the full six years of the deal, will earn him $78 million. We do not even have to talk about his college stats at this point.
In light of how well Georgia has done with their past five starting quarterbacks, it is only natural that the next quarterback receives such scrutiny.
To date, Cox has played in 13 games and started one for the Bulldogs. The one game he started, Ole Miss in 2006, was a Georgia victory. Though that is his one and only college start with a victory, he did the same thing at Independence High School in Charlotte where he had a perfect 31-0 record.
Just as the Bulldogs have had a great run of quality quarterbacks, Cox has been the understudy for a few good ones himself. In addition to his time under Shockley and Stafford at Georgia, he backed up former Florida quarterback Chris Leak at Independence.
"It was good to watch D.J. and Matthew, I learned a lot from both of them if it was something they did good or bad; I learned either way," Cox said. "I prefer to wait like I did because I did the same thing in high school playing behind Chris Leak. I think it is going to help me a lot to see how those guys played, how they approached everything on and off the field, and I draw off of their careers."
For his part, Cox says he is not getting wrapped up setting a standard for success.
"Everybody bases it on wins," he said when asked what would be a successful campaign in 2009, "but as long as we can look back and say that we fought as hard as we could in every game, never gave in, and gave everyone a handful that we played; that is a special season.
"Being at Georgia, success has been a part of what we have been doing for the past nine years, and it is not acceptable to have a 9-4 season. We are shooting for the stars, we want to win a championship as bad as anybody else does, and that is our expectation. We want to win the SEC, we want to compete and have a chance to play in the National Championship."
While the loss of Stafford is significant, the Georgia Bulldogs have proven time and again that they have plenty of capable players waiting in the wings. The college football world will find out soon enough if that trend continues in 2009.