HOOVER, Ala. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt sounded awfully happy for a guy who just lost the winningest quarterback in NCAA history to graduation.
In fact, Richt arrived at SEC Media Days on Thursday so ready to talk about the transition to new starting quarterback D.J. Shockley, he addressed the subject before anyone could even ask him about it.
"I know one of the biggest questions that people have is how do you feel about the quarterback change, not having David Greene for the first time since I have been the head coach at Georgia," Richt said. "I am very excited about what's going to happen with D.J. Shockley. He is a great football player. He is a guy that's going to be a treat for all the Georgia fans and I am just happy for him."
Richt's optimism is borne of two things Shockley has that many first-time starting quarterbacks do not: experience and mobility.
While Shockley enters his senior season without ever having started a game for the Bulldogs, he has not been wasting away on the bench. He has appeared in 26 games in his three years in Athens, attempting 133 passes and throwing 10 touchdowns against just four interceptions despite waiting his turn behind Greene. While it is unusual for a backup quarterback to see such extensive action by design, it just made sense to Richt.
"When your second team players play, you create depth," Richt said. "You create good morale. I think every coach believes that. It's just that the quarterback position is such a high-profile position. People just don't understand why you might want to do that for the quarterback."
The way Shockley handled himself behind Greene earned him the respect of both his coach and his teammates.
"You know, guys can mope about the situation, or guys just decide that they don't want to be here and take off," Richt said. "He didn't do that. Not only did he stay, but he thrived at Georgia. He is a 3.2 student, and he has won community service awards for us. He's just a fantastic guy, a great man. He's probably the most respected player we have on the team."
Of course, none of that will matter if Shockley can't move the ball this season. He will have a great stable of running backs behind him in Danny Ware, Thomas Brown and Kregg Lumpkin, plus a big target in tight end Leonard Pope. And Shockley is not afraid to take off on his own.
"He becomes a weapon himself with his ability to run," Richt said. "You have got to be a good decision-maker, you have got to be able to handle the pressure of the job and you have got to be a leader. He is all those things, plus the bonus of the ability to run. It's exciting for us."
But with two new starting receivers, Shockley will have to improve on his career 50.3 percent completion rate.
"We're not going to be a running quarterback system," Richt said. "We will have some things that accentuate his abilities to do that, but I would say 90 percent of what we have always done, we'll do."
With the Bulldogs kind of flying under the radar and being picked by many to finish third in the SEC East, how Shockley adjusts to the job will go a long way toward determining whether or not Georgia surprises some people this season.
"I think he could hit the ground running," Richt said. "I think if he has success in the first game, it will really just give him more confidence. I don't know exactly how he will get started, but we're very confident that once he settles down into his normal game, I think we're all going to be very pleased. And if he happens to jump on quick and gain a lot of confidence early, it could really be fun."
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