HOOVER, Ala. - With Georgia's four starting quarterback candidates back in Athens, Ga., senior center Nick Jones was smack dab in the line of fire Wednesday at Southeastern Conference Media Days.
As the Bulldogs' offensive player representative, Jones was left to answer the biggest question surrounding Georgia heading into the new season: Who will be the starting quarterback?
With more than 700 registered media members at the Wynfrey Hotel for an event that is the unofficial kickoff of the SEC season, Jones quickly discovered there were probably 700 ways to have the same question posed to him again and again.
"They always try to put it differently, but it's basically the same question," Jones said. "'Who's it going to be? Who do you like? Who are you most comfortable with?' I even had some guy ask me, 'Who has the softest hands?' I'm like, 'Come on, man!'"
Georgia coach Mark Richt fielded a half-dozen quarterback questions in his more than half an hour with print reporters in this Birmingham suburb. He tried to shoot down the most prevalent perception that the race is between fifth-year senior and Athens native Joe Tereshinski and hot-shot freshman Matthew Stafford to succeed D.J. Shockley.
"A lot of people are trying to make it a two-horse race between Joe T and Stafford, but there's more in that race than those two," Richt said.
Georgia's most recent depth chart is the same as it was before spring practices with the quarterbacks ordered by seniority: Tereshinski, redshirt sophomore Blake Barnes, redshirt freshman Joe Cox and Stafford, who was the standout at the position in the spring game.
Richt said he wasn't looking to make changes to the pecking order in the spring, but that will change after preseason practices begin on Aug. 5.
"We're going to narrow it down I would say relatively soon in practice," Richt said. "As of right now, I see it as a pretty tight race. I hope there's some things that happen on the field that will be obvious to me and the staff, that we need to move in a certain direction."
Richt would like to have a starter about a week before Georgia opens the season against Western Kentucky on Sept. 2.
"We've got to get it down to two at least before the first game," Richt said. "I'll say this, it may be three games into the season and we may let No. 3 have a shot, I don't know. It just depends how quickly someone can prove that he should be the one."
Richt said the top concern for him is that his quarterback "won't give the game away" with his decision making.
"In the beginning, we're looking for a guy to manage the whole situation, and then ultimately we want a guy that can make a difference and win some of the big games that we'll play in," Richt said.
Richt described Tereshinski as an "old school guy" who understands the system. Barnes is an "outstanding passer" who Richt said was hard to evaluate this spring because of knee and thumb injuries.
Cox is a "fiery competitor" who coaches and players say is accurate despite throwing four interceptions in the spring game. Stafford has a "tremendous arm" but is still learning a system in which quarterbacks make checks at the line of scrimmage.