ATHENS, Ga. - Joe Tereshinski never gave up on starting at quarterback for his favorite team. Not when he was filling in as a snapper. Not when he was called on to block for the punter. Not even when Georgia kept bringing in highly rated prep quarterbacks.
Tereshinski's persistence paid off when the No. 15 Bulldogs, who'll go into the season as the defending Southeastern Conference champion, named him to start the Sept. 2 opener against Western Kentucky.
"I love Georgia. I was willing to wait my turn," said Tereshinski, a fifth-year senior. "I knew I probably wouldn't get a chance to play until my last year. That was always good enough for me."
Coach Mark Richt made the decision after letting four quarterbacks battle it out during spring practice and through the first two weeks of preseason workouts. In the end, Tereshinski's experience, accuracy and knowledge of the offense put him ahead of sophomore Blake Barnes, redshirt freshman Joe Cox and true freshman Matthew Stafford.
"Joe T. is able to recognize things and take them from the meeting room to the practice field to the game," Richt said.
Cox was named the top backup - at least for now - while Barnes and Stafford were the also-rans.
Tereshinski is a third-generation Georgia player whose father is an assistant on Richt's staff. Joe III probably would have gotten a chance to play earlier if he had gone to another school, but he always wanted to be a Bulldog, even if it meant being stuck behind David Greene and D.J. Shockley most of his career.
Looking for ways to get on the field, Tereshinski filled in as the snapper in his first college game. He became a regular on the special teams, lining up near the punter and picking off any rushers who got past the line.
All along, he kept his eye on the ultimate goal. Greene left for the NFL after the 2004 season, having guided Georgia to its first SEC title in 20 years on the way to winning more games than any major-college quarterback. Shockley started last season, leading the Bulldogs to another conference championship, before moving on to the pros.
Now, it's Joe T's turn. Finally.
"I always dreamed of it," Tereshinski said. "That's one of the factors that kept me here. I knew I would have one year."
Stafford, who was rated one of the top two or three prep quarterbacks in the country last season, graduated early from high school so he could take part in spring practice. Many Georgia fans reveled in the hype and looked forward to him claiming the job.
But even with a head start, Stafford looked like, well, a freshman. In Friday's decisive scrimmage, he threw three interceptions.
"He's still learning what to do," Richt said. "When he knows the play, he does well. When he doesn't, he's a little shaky. That's only natural."
If Stafford doesn't get any playing time by the fourth or fifth game, he'll likely be redshirted. That's not necessarily a bad thing; Greene and Shockley both sat out their first seasons.
"Obviously, I'm a little disappointed," Stafford said. "But Joe T. obviously knows more than all of us. There's no question he deserves the job. He played great throughout the fall. He's a great leader, and I'm excited to see how he does."