ATHENS, Ga. - Now that strong-armed freshman Matthew Stafford is set to begin his second stint as Georgia's starting quarterback Saturday against Mississippi State, coaches hope the receivers are better prepared for the velocity of his throws.
If not for a problem with dropped passes by the receivers, Stafford might not have been benched after making two starts earlier in the season, according to coach Mark Richt.
"I think if every ball that was catchable was caught, we might not have ever had a transition at that point," Richt said, referring to Georgia's Sept. 23 win over Colorado.
Stafford was benched in his second start with Georgia trailing. Another freshman, Joe Cox, threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes for a 14-13 win over Colorado.
"But still, he's better now than he was in that Colorado game," said Richt of Stafford.
Stafford played the final 17 minutes of Georgia's 24-22 loss to Vanderbilt last week behind senior starter Joe Tereshinski. Stafford was 9-for-13 passing for 86 yards, including a drop by tight end Martrez Milner that cost Georgia a possible touchdown.
"He threw three very catchable balls that were not caught," Richt said. "He seemed real comfortable in the game."
Overall, Stafford has completed 50.5 percent of his passes (47 of 93) passes for 582 yards. He has four interceptions and only one touchdown pass.
Richt named Stafford the starter on Monday. The plan is for Stafford to hold the job the rest of the season.
"If I can be that, then I'd love to be that," Stafford said. "I'm just trying to do whatever it takes to help the team anyway I can. If that's go out there and manage a game, hand it off or sling it around, it doesn't matter to me. I'm just trying to get a win for Georgia."
Stafford's superior arm strength is obvious, and so he might deserve blame for some dropped passes because of a lack of touch on some of his shorter throws.
"He's thrown a very good ball," Richt said. "There's probably been a couple that came out there like an ICBM - very, very difficult to handle. But for the most part he's thrown the kind of ball a receiver should catch."
Richt hopes receivers can adjust to Stafford's missile-like throws, especially after spending the full week with the first-team offense.
Richt also said he might be less prone to try to play a second quarterback Saturday if Stafford is enjoying success.
"He's been through tough road situations, home situations," Richt said. "He's dealt with being put on the bench and coming back. He's dealt with a lot of things now that have prepared him for what's about to happen, I hope."
Stafford's leadership impressed Richt and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo in Wednesday's practice.
"He showed some awareness today with some calls - front recognition, who to block," Richt said. "I asked coach Bobo if he whispered that in his ear and he said no, Matthew made the calls on his own."
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