ATHENS, Ga. — Matthew Stafford’s Doughboy look is so two years ago.
When Stafford enrolled early in January 2006, even Georgia coach Mark Richt was surprised by how much girth the nation’s top-rated prep quarterback carried. The 6-foot-3 Stafford was listed at 225 pounds his freshman season but admits 240 would have been more accurate.
He played at 235 pounds last season and has trimmed to where 225 comes honestly.
“I’m in the best condition of my life,” he said, “and I’m trying to make that translate on the field.”
Richt believes the sleeker Stafford can be even more effective as a change-of-pace running threat. He already has shown glimpses, rushing for a career-best 83 yards two years ago in an upset win at Auburn and bolting for a 31-yard touchdown last season at Georgia Tech.
Stafford may not be ready to play-fake to himself like Tim Tebow does at Florida, but Richt doesn’t want sophomore tailback Knowshon Moreno getting all the carries.
“Matthew has much more running ability than I think people give him credit for,” Richt said. “He’s a guy that if you don’t make a plan for him, then you could get hurt by him. We don’t want to game plan it where he’s going to be the runner 10 or 20 times a game necessarily, but we’ll pick our spots.”
Stafford’s loss in weight is accompanied by a gain in experience. After arriving as a heralded Texas gunslinger, he often forced throws and wound up with 12 interceptions and only four touchdowns through his first nine games.
Beginning with that ’06 win at Auburn, however, he has thrown 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and has led the Bulldogs to a 14-2 record.
“My freshman year, I probably didn’t know if I was forcing it or not,” he said. “I probably didn’t know what I was looking at. There is a time and a place where I can let loose and try to make a play in a game, but I’m definitely just trying to manage the offense as best I can.
“I’ve got personal goals, too, but I realize that winning is the most important thing and the most fun thing.”
Two years ago, Stafford was new to the scene. He was a returning starter entering last season but recognized senior tailback Thomas Brown and senior center Fernando Velasco as the offensive leaders.
Receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, fullback Brannan Southerland and tight end Tripp Chandler are among the senior leaders this year, but nobody is questioning who’s in charge.
“I’ve just been working hard and realizing that it’s kind of my time,” Stafford said. “Last year, I just kind of did it by example. This year, I’ve tried to be more vocal.”
Said Moreno: “He’s the leader in the huddle, and It’s definitely good to have him back there.”
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...