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Richt: Cox ready to lead Bulldogs
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Joe Cox enters the preseason as the No. 1 quarterback on Georgia’s depth chart. - photo by File photo

After three years of mostly watching and waiting, Joe Cox is finally getting the keys to the Georgia offense.

The senior from Charlotte, N.C., played in only three games in 2008 behind Matthew Stafford and has been in 13 games in his first three years. He hasn’t started a game since getting the nod against Ole Miss in 2006.

Yet Georgia coach Mark Richt believes Cox is ready to lead the Bulldogs.

“He’s a guy who’s prepared for this moment,” Richt said. “ A No. 2 quarterback, you have to prepare like you’re No. 1. He’s done that all along.”

It’s not just his coach — a former college quarterback himself — who’s giving Cox the stamp of approval. So are his Bulldogs teammates, Richt said.

“For our team to give him the vote of confidence they did in our exit meetings, almost 100 percent of the guys felt like he was a leader on the team. That’s hard to do when you’re not starting. He’s moved himself into that position by the way he’s prepared. We all have confidence in Joe.”

Cox came off the bench as a freshman to lead Georgia to a 14-13 victory over Colorado, throwing a last-minute touchdown pass to Martrez Milner to cap the comeback. Last season, he was 11-of-15 for 151 yards in three games, with two touchdown passes.

Cox’s progress has been “leaps and bounds,” Richt said.

Behind Cox, there is even less experience at quarterback. Logan Gray played, but the redshirt sophomore mainly was used as  a punt returner last year.

Gray may be one of several players to play more than one position.

“I can’t tell you for sure all he will do is play quarterback,” Richt said. “We might try to get him to learn a little receiver.”

Brandon Smith, a highly-touted defensive back, also could play receiver. Tight end Orson Charles, another highly-regarded recruit, signed with the Bulldogs in March.

“Orson Charles might be talented enough to play receiver or tight end,” Richt said of the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Charles. “He might play both. Orson’s skill set is different. Orson is definitely the fastest tight end we have.”

Georgia’s returning tight ends for 2009 caught a grand total of four passes last season. With Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, gone and Knowshon Moreno also in the NFL, that means the Bulldogs will enter the season without the players who had 58.7 percent of the rushing attempts last year, 72.6 percent of the rushing yards gained last year, not to mention 95.8 percent of the passing yards and 95.5 percent of the completions from 2008.

That leaves some large cleats to fill for mostly untested players — though the more veteran Bulldogs are confident in their abilities.

“If the coaches trust them, I trust them,” said senior offensive tackle Vince Vance.