ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia opened last season against Georgia Southern and had Matthew Stafford at quarterback and Knowshon Moreno at tailback.
The Bulldogs now have Joe Cox at quarterback and Richard Samuel at tailback and have traded an in-state punching bag for a trip to No. 9 Oklahoma State. Georgia coach Mark Richt doesn't know if his offense will play well or play poorly, but he doesn't expect it to play cautiously.
"I don't think we can hold anything back that I think could help us win the game," Richt said Tuesday. "The good news is Joe knows the system and that we don't have to sugarcoat anything for him. We won't say we'll throw every route that Matthew threw. We are going to do what Joe can do best.
"Systematically, we won't have to hold anything back for him, and the same thing is true for Richard."
Cox, a 6-foot-1, 198-pound senior from Charlotte, played just three games last year, completing 11 of 15 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. His career totals include 33 completions in 58 attempts for 432 yards, with five touchdowns and an interception.
He is 32-0 as a starting quarterback, with 31 wins coming at Charlotte's Independence High, a factory that churned out former Florida quarterback Chris Leak, former Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and former North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks.
"When you dream everything up, you dream of coming in and playing kind of early and having a good year," Cox said. "But things change. No. 1 draft picks come in and play in front of you."
Richt believes it's unfair to compare Cox with Stafford, so he doesn't. Cox said he doesn't get offended by those who believe the Bulldogs could be limited without Stafford's strong arm or Moreno's dynamic running.
"We've got a lot of different things we're going to try this year, but it's not like we've changed our offense around because I was playing or Richard was playing," Cox said. "We still do the same things, but we have a lot of new guys, especially at the tight end position, that we're going to try and use more this year. It's going to be a different look, but we're still going to do a lot of the same things."
Samuel, a 6-2, 216-pound sophomore from Cartersville, missed spring practice after undergoing wrist surgery in January but became the No. 1 tailback after a five-carry, 108-yard performance in the first scrimmage. He had 26 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown last year but had only nine carries in the last 10 games.
There were six games in which Samuel didn't have a carry, including the last two.
"It's different knowing that I have to be more focused and more prepared for the game instead of sitting on the sideline just hoping I'll get in," Samuel said. "Now it's like I know I'm going to get in, so I'm more focused, more prepared and more aware of how the game is going."
Richt believes Cox and Samuel must provide an effective run-pass balance right away. He is eager to see what the pair can do, as are their offensive mates.
"They say it's a new quarterback and a new running back, but it's really not, because these are the same guys who run the same plays every day in practice," tight end Aron White said. "Last year, when it came down to making plays, we relied on certain key players to make that play time in and time out. I feel like this year we have equality across the board as far as guys who can make plays in certain situations."
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 ...