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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cox Has Built-In Rapport with Receivers

Georgia will begin the 2009 season with a different starting quarterback than it has employed for the better part of the past three years, but Joe Cox is hardly the new guy.

As a fifth-year senior, Cox has the luxury of knowing Georgia's offense and, perhaps more importantly, his teammates awfully well. So while he's light on game-day snaps, no one is expecting much of a learning curve thanks to the thousands of passes Cox has already thrown in practice to the group of receivers he'll be working with this season.

"It's going to look different as far as names and body sizes, but we're doing the same things out there in practice," said wideout Michael Moore, who has played with Cox as part of Georgia's No. 2 unit in practice for most of the past three seasons. "We're running the same plays, Joe can make the same throws, we're running the same routes. I don't think too much is going to change."

Cox has always been a steadying force in the locker room -- he recently earned 107 votes in a poll of 110 players asking who the leaders on the team were -- but this year, his teammates have the added advantage of knowing just what to expect from him on the field, too.

When Matthew Stafford first took the reins of Georgia's offense in 2006, there was a huge adjustment period for the Bulldogs' receivers, who weren't used to the touch -- or more often, the heat -- Stafford put on his throws.

With Cox, that's not an issue. Along with Moore, Georgia's other starting wide receiver, A.J. Green, spent plenty of time working with Cox last preseason and said he sees hasn't noticed much of a change since Cox took over the offense. Tavarres King credits Cox with helping his game while the two worked together with the No. 2 unit last year, and Israel Troupe offers similar platitudes. Other than the incoming freshmen, this year's receiving corps has as much experience working with Cox as they had with Stafford, and in most cases, more.

"With Matthew, after about a year, everyone kind of figured out his mentality and how he was going to be and where you needed to be to get open so he could get the ball to you," said wide receiver Kris Durham, who will sit out this year after injuring his shoulder this spring. "Since Joe's been here, we've already developed that ideal relationship where we know what he's thinking, we know his arm strength, when he's going to let go of it. It's just a benefit for us."

Of course, there's a big difference between the balls Stafford threw and what receivers expect from Cox, and he's fully aware his passes won't take nearly as much adjustment on the part of his wideouts.

"Obviously they caught some of the hardest passes thrown, so I don't think it's that hard for them to catch what I throw now," Cox joked.

Still, even he admits that all the time he's spent with his receiving corps during practice over the past few years has its benefits.

The relationship between a quarterback and his receivers hinges on a fundamental trust. The quarterback needs to know his receiver will be in the right spot at the right time. The receiver needs to know his quarterback can get him the ball in a position to make the catch without getting killed.

And that's the biggest key with Cox, Moore said. There's already an established trust.

"I have gotten used to throwing to those guys the last couple years," Cox said. "I think that does help me knowing where certain people are on the field and who has the best chance to make a play."

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