Shockley in the shadows

Numbers for Georgia QB on par with top-ranked counterparts Leinart, Young and Vick

National Notebook

October 22, 2005|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

Playing quarterback for one of the top teams in the country is usually a magnet for hype and headlines, and their performances this season have brought Southern California's Matt Leinart, Texas' Vince Young and Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick a typical amount of praise and press.

One who hasn't received as much notice - and should - is Georgia's D.J. Shockley. After many questioned how Shockley would play in replacing David Greene, the fifth-year senior has answered every challenge, leading the Bulldogs to a 6-0 start and a No. 4 national ranking.

"If you look at him as a fifth-year senior who's both a leader and a quarterback, I'd say he's doing a really good job," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "If you look at him as a first-year starter, he's doing an unbelievable job. I don't know where we would be without him."

Though overshadowed by his counterparts' stats on the nation's top three teams, Shockley's numbers in most categories are just as impressive.

He is second to Leinart in passing yards with 1,464 yards, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio (11 to 4) is comparable to that of Leinart and Young (12-5 each), as well as Vick (10-5). Shockley has also rushed for 224 yards, averaging more than 5 yards a carry and scoring twice.

"He brings so much to this team with his leadership," Bulldogs wide receiver Sean Bailey said. "He comes out so enthused. There's no chance of not being enthused with him around. He's always so encouraging. He's always there to support you."

Shockley credits Richt's system for much of his success.

"So many people are catching balls," said Shockley, who used 10 receivers in last week's 34-17 win over Vanderbilt and 15 so far this season. "If they know there's a chance to get the ball at critical points in the game, it makes everyone run their routes better."

If the Bulldogs can survive next week's showdown with Florida in Jacksonville, they could have clear sailing until finishing the regular season Nov. 26 at in-state rival Georgia Tech. As of now, they seem to be the favorite for a spot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Dec. 3 at the Georgia Dome.

`The bottom line is - we're undefeated," Shockley said. `That's all I ever dreamed of. Everything else that I've been doing is just extra."

Dream matchup

Since coming to Texas from Auburn after last season, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik has been credited for helping the Longhorns become a team that can win with more than just a high-powered offense. Until now, Texas has been virtually unchallenged.

This week will be the biggest test, when the nation's No. 2 team hosts Texas Tech, the nation's No. 1 passing team the past four years. Though he has been part of 21 straight wins at Texas and Auburn, Chizik sees this as a personal measuring stick.

"I haven't played anything like this in so long, it wouldn't even count if I said it," Chizik told the Dallas Morning News. "This is a whole different world."

The key for the Longhorns in today's game against the 10th-ranked Red Raiders will be in controlling Texas Tech quarterback Cody Hodges and a group of dangerous receivers, four of whom caught passes totaling more than 100 yards each last week against Kansas State.

Senior cornerback Michael Huff will likely have the job of slowing down Red Raiders wideout Joel Filani, who caught 10 passes for a Big 12-record 255 yards last week. Duane Akins, who coaches the Texas secondary, believes Huff is the perfect player for the job.

Ever since he was a 9-year-old playing pee-wee football, Huff has studied his game tapes.

"He not only understands the defensive concepts we're trying to accomplish, he understands what the offense is thinking, too," Akins said. "So I can position him mentally to take the strains off of our linebackers and the rest of the secondary."

No hoops for you

The invitation came last winter, when first-year UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland lost his top two point guards. Howland made an offer to Bruins receiver Marcus Everett, who played point guard in high school, to join the team.

Everett, who had just finished his freshman season, turned Howland down.

"If I played basketball, I would have missed spring [football] practice," Everett said. "I thought I had to establish myself as a football player first. I had to establish myself as a receiver on this team. I miss basketball so much and I wish I could play, but I have to look at the big picture."

Everett has become a significant part of UCLA's turnaround season, helping the Bruins stay unbeaten with crucial plays in their past three games. Everett helped set up the winning touchdowns in wins over Washington and Cal, then made a leaping 9-yard touchdown catch to force overtime against Washington State.

"He thrives on pressure situations," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said. "Like any good receiver who wants the ball in those types of situations, he's one of those guys. He thrives on that. He's always dreamed about being the kind of guy to make that kind of play."

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