Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Top QB Heads Big 'Dogs Class

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Top QB Heads Big 'Dogs Class

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL NEWBERRY

ATHENS -- Let the hype begin. Matthew Stafford has arrived at Georgia.

Officially, that is.

Granted, he already has been taking college classes and working out with his new teammates, so this hardly qualifies as a scoop. Still, with the arrival of signing day, the Bulldogs can finally talk about the much-heralded quarterback from Texas who might be starting between the hedges come fall.

Stafford was among 27 players who signed Wednesday with Georgia, the top guy in a deep, versatile class ranked among the top five by major recruiting services.

Stafford graduated early from Highland Park High School in Dallas so he could take a head start on his college football career. He arrived in Athens last month, will take part in spring practice and is among four quarterbacks vying to replace D.J. Shockley, who guided the Bulldogs to the Southeastern Conference title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl last season.

Stafford actually committed to Georgia before his senior year at Highland Park. He never backed off that decision, even though there was pressure to stay closer to home -- especially when the Texas Longhorns won the national championship.

"Some people wanted me to change my mind," Stafford said. "But I never wavered. It was Georgia all the way."

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Stafford put up some mind-boggling numbers in high school. As a senior, he completed 209 of 322 passes for 4,018 yards and 38 touchdowns while leading Highland Park to its first state championship since 1957.

With Shockley's departure, Stafford will have a chance to start right away for the Bulldogs, which only has happened one other time since the NCAA cleared freshmen to play on the varsity during the 1970s.

"It's wide open," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I'd be shocked if we had a real strong idea after spring. There's too many guys in the mix and not enough time."

The Bulldogs received a couple of welcome additions to their already strong class when New Jersey running back Knowshon Moreno and defensive back Reshad Jones of Atlanta's Booker T. Washington High School signed.

According to Rivals.com, Georgia landed the fourth-best recruiting class in the country. Another leading service, SuperPrep, put the Bulldogs at No. 5. For those who put stock in such numbers, it's the highest-rated class of the Richt era.

Georgia landed 11 signees from eight other states, including California (prized tight end NaDerris Ward) and Maryland (Akeem Hebron, a sought-after linebacker who should add speed on defense).

"With the class we're bringing in . . . we should be playing for a national championship at some point," said signee Asher Allen of Tucker High School. "If we don't, there's something wrong."

GEORGIA BULLDOGS

SIGNEES

27

BY POSITION

Offensive line. . . 6

Defensive line. . . .6

Linebacker. . . . . . 4

Defensive back. . .2

Athlete. …

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