In a move that didn't really surprise anyone, yet still apparently caused a stern reaction on the Dawgvent (according to Bruce Feldman, who quotes SuthnDawg, whom we must presume is the canary in the mine that is DawgNation public opinion), Joe Tereshinski is going to be starting under center for Georgia against Western Kentucky. The more I thought about Georgia's prospects for this year when doing my initial top 25 poll last week, the more bullish I was on the notion that Tereshinski was the obvious choice and that Georgia would do quite well with him under center. Here are my reasons:
1. Georgia isn't starting chopped Matt Suhey under center. I'm just not buying Paul Westerdawg's argument that JTIII is Greg Talley to Matt Stafford's Eric Zeier. JTIII, people forget, was a four-star recruit (per Rivals) and might have been higher if he wasn't a Dawg Lifer and had instead extended out his recruitment until Signing Day. I can't say that I remember Talley's recruitment, other than the fact that he came from Valdosta, as did Buck Belue, so obviously, Georgia was headed for a national title in 1990 when Talley was paired with a star freshman running back from a small Georgia high school. Talley threw for 871 yards and four touchdowns as the starter for much of 1990, so it wasn't as if he lit the world on fire. But wait, you say, JTIII wasn't exactly a world-beater against Florida last year...
2. JTIII's performances in 2005 aren't a good indication of what he'll do in 2006. Remember the last look we had at D.J. Shockley in 2004? He was busy doing his best to give the game away against Tech in Athens. He threw a nice deep ball (to Sean Bailey, if I recall correctly) at the end of the first half, and then couldn't manage a first down in the second half. It was all the bad things about Shockley in one half: indecisiveness, leading to hurried throws while falling backwards against pressure. David Greene had to make a heroic return to drive the team for a field goal to pull Shockley's chestnuts out of the fire. It was this memory of an inept Shockley keeping my brother and I from getting out of a cold rain that led me to opine last season that Blake Barnes would be the starter for Georgia by the end of the season. I didn't buy Mark Richt's argument that Shockley would be much better running an offense tailored to his skills, instead of the Greene offense. As is obvious now, I was wrong. Fast-forward to this year, when the same pessimism surrounds JTIII. Our last memory of him is the performance against Florida, but it bears recognition that JTIII was placed in an impossible position.
There's a great cover story in this month's Atlantic Monthly making the point that we have essentially beaten Al Qaeda. Their operations have been significantly curtailed and decentralized, their leadership are hiding in caves in Pakistan, and they have been unable to come close to duplicating their attacks on 9/11. The point of the story was that the greater risk for the United States now is overreacting to Al Qaeda by taking excessive countermeasures (spending $5B in response to the anthrax threat to the mail service, for instance), rather than Al Qaeda attacks themselves. Mark Richt would do well to read this article, because his play-calling against Florida last year was analogous in that the damage to Georgia was found more in his reaction to starting his back-up quarterback by throwing almost exclusively on obvious passing downs. If Mark can avoid such a fate this year, then JTIII will look much better.
It also stands to reason that JTIII, just like Shockley, will look better in an offense that is designed to his talents. Shockley looked good in the shotgun offense that Richt tweaked last year, and JTIII did not look as good in that offense. Even though Georgia probably used different plays in the Florida game last year, the offense was still used to practicing the Shockley offense. This year, JTIII will be running some version of the David Greene offense. If JTIII can make decisions and throw as accurately as Greene (not impossible), then Georgia will be fine and then they can start Stafford as a true sophomore, which would be a better situation.