November 29, 2008

Farewell to Stafford, Moreno?

Saturday's game against Georgia Tech was the final Sanford Stadium appearance for seniors like Brannan Southerland, Jeremy Lomax and Mohamed Massaquoi.

However, following Georgia's 45-42 defeat, it was the future of quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno which seemed to be on everyone's mind.

It's been rumored for several weeks that the talented duo might forgo the remaining years in their Georgia career for a shot at riches in the NFL, although neither player gave any indication as to their plans after the game.

"I'm not thinking about it, I haven't thought about it," said Moreno, who rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown against the Yellow Jackets.

Ditto for Stafford, who some expert's project will be a top five pick in the NFL's April Draft.

"That's the last thing on my mind right now," said Stafford, who threw for a career-best 407 yards and tied a school record with five touchdown passes.

Head coach Mark Richt believes both his stars will have a difficult decision to make.

"I think for those guys it's going to be a hard decision, period. I would imagine both have pretty bright futures playing football for a while and I think that in itself is what's going to make it the toughest for them," Richt said. "I know that Matthew had some goals besides making it to the NFL, and I know Knowshon does, too. They wanted to win championships and they wanted to play well enough to be in position to win some national awards. Although that's not their primary objective, they have good enough reason to let it cross their minds because they are talented young men."

Richt said he plans to talk to both players sometime between now and Georgia's bowl game to give them as much factual information as he can regarding the NFL and what they can expect some draft time.

Underclassmen have a deadline of Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.

"NFLPA rules that all the agent stuff state that shouldn't happen until after the bowl game but I'm sure between now and then it will give them time to reflect on where they are," Richt said. "We will spend some time with them and give them the best information we can. I think both will be interested to hearing what the NFL people will have to say about them. That will be the starting point for them deciding where to do. But they'll have to do some soul searching, do they want college to end right now."

Richt said he honestly doesn't know what direction either Stafford or Moreno may choose to take.

"I think they've done a pretty doggone good job focusing on the here and now," Richt said. "Personally, I would love to see both Knowshon and Matthew get to play behind an experienced line. I think we they would have a blast."

Other Bulldogs who could potentially move onto the NFL include injured defensive tackle Jeff Owens and cornerback Asher Allen.

A senior, Owens walked out with the rest of his class during Saturday's pre-game ceremonies but could accept his redshirt and return to play one more season next fall.

Allen is expected to return for his senior year.

Junior defensive tackle Geno Atkins was at one time thought to be a candidate to leave early, but has since stated emphatically that he will return to the team next fall.

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