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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Looking Back No. 2: Decisions, Decisions

Each day leading up to Georgia's date with Michigan State at the Capital One Bowl, we'll be counting down the top moments that thrilled, haunted and downright perplexed Bulldog Nation in 2008.

No. 2: Decision Time for Stafford and Moreno

Matthew Stafford walked onto the practice field at Olympia High School in Orlando, Fla. on Monday with his eyes focused squarely on Georgia's sports information director, whom he expected to direct him to a group of reporters waiting nearby. As Stafford approached, however, he was waved on. For the first time in weeks, no one was waiting to interrogate the junior quarterback.

Attention from reporters comes with the territory for quarterbacks, but Stafford's popularity hasn't had much to do with Georgia's bowl game. The questions are almost all about the NFL. Will he stay or will he go?

"I've been pretty much saying the same thing to you guys for about a month now," Stafford said during one of his most recent inquisitions. "You keep asking me the same questions. I've just got to figure out what I want to do, and to tell you the truth, I haven't really had a lot of time to do it."

That hasn't kept anyone from asking. At practice, Stafford is hounded by reporters. Around campus, the students want to know what his plans are. Around town, it's virtually all he hears. And he's not alone.

While Stafford is projected as a potential No. 1 overall selection in the NFL draft should he forego his senior season at Georgia, tailback Knowshon Moreno is facing a similar dilemma. He's widely considered a first-round pick and perhaps the best running back who might be available in the draft.

In the NFL, riches await both players, but before they announce a decision, fans have made a point of letting the two Bulldogs know they've got a home in Athens for another year, too.

"I hear it every day," Stafford said. "I get used to it, so I just smile and say, 'OK.'"

That has been Moreno's plan, too -- sort of.

The tailback from New Jersey who became only the second player in Georgia history with consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons this year has managed to tune out most of the NFL hype. In fact, he simply doesn't pay much attention to football at all outside of his own game.

When Moreno was asked earlier this week what he thought of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's comments that no rookie salary cap would be in place before 2011, Moreno's answer was telling. "Who's Goodell?" he said.

While both players have insisted that they haven't made a decision and haven't even given the choice much thought, the campaign to keep two of Georgia's finest in the SEC rather than the NFL has been an enduring one for their fans.

At the team's end-of-season awards banquet, chants of "One more year" erupted each time Stafford or Moreno walked across the stage. It was enough to make an impression on both players, but not enough to sway their decision -- at least not yet.

"It's a tough decision on anyone," Moreno said. "It's a really big jump, but right now, I'm just having fun. I really enjoy being here, being in a college town and being with these players every day."

If either player has made up their mind, they've kept it a closely guarded secret. And while everyone from rabid fans to their fellow Bulldogs is on the edge of their seat waiting for an answer, few are expecting it to come prior to the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare draft eligibility.

"Nobody talks about it, not (Moreno) or Stafford," running back Richard Samuel said. "I'm a little bit curious, but I'm just letting it play out. Sooner or later, we'll find out."

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