SCOTT: Mitchell, Stafford go seperate ways

UGA's Matthew Stafford

A 35-14 win over Oklahoma State in the season opener suggested Georgia might be better than expected, especially for a young team with 24 true freshmen, redshirt freshmen and sophomores among its two-deep depth chart, including true freshmen at both offensive tackle spots.

One week later, a 16-12 home loss to South Carolina gave Georgia its fifth loss in its past seven SEC games and insisted the Bulldogs were not ready for prime time.

 

Then on Saturday, the Bulldogs came back with a 26-23 overtime victory at Alabama, offering more evidence that the program is headed for bigger, better things this season.

That said, the smart thing would be to just let the Bulldogs play this one out instead of trying to figure them out.

 

But this much is true: When the Dawgs needed their young-uns to step up, many of them did, with sophomore quarterback Matthew Stafford, true freshman tackles Trinton Sturdivant and Clint Boling, redshirt freshman safety Reshad Jones, and sophomore corners Prince Miller and Asher Allen all coming through down the stretch.

 

"We've got young guys in a ton of spots, but they came up big," Stafford said. "We grew a lot."

 

How much? We'll know a lot more on Saturday when Georgia plays host to Ole Miss.

 

***

 

While Stafford finished like a hero, South Carolina senior quarterback Blake Mitchell didn't finish at all against LSU and might even be finished as the Gamecocks' starter.

Mitchell lost his starting job early last season, and he's lost it again this time around following his performance in last week's 28-16 loss to No. 2 LSU.

 

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has never been shy about making quarterback changes in the past, and this case is no different. When the Gamecocks play Mississippi State at home on Saturday, the starter will be redshirt freshman Chris Smelley, who showed a few positive signs when he replaced Mitchell against LSU.

 

"We finally hit a few passes. I thought Chris Smelley came in and gave us a little spark and hit a few balls," Spurrier said. "We had to try something different. Blake couldn't even catch the snap. He dropped two or three snaps, one went through his hands. We just had to try something."

 

Then again, considering Spurrier's history with quarterbacks, Mitchell could be back before the end of Saturday's game.

 

"He (Mitchell) maybe didn't do all that poorly, but we have to give Chris Smelley a chance," Spurrier said. "We're going to give him a chance next week and see what happens."

 

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Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author, and featured columnist in Tiger Rag. Reach him at rscottsec@yahoo.com.

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