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Stafford works on improving accuracy

UGA QB says goal is to make passes easier to catch

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 03/05/08

Athens In the offseason, while all the Georgia highlights, wins and accomplishments were being savored, quarterback Matthew Stafford found himself alone in the dark.

His mind wasn't on what he had done lead a sometimes shaky team to an 11-2 season and a No. 2 finish. But instead he was focused on what he had not done complete 154 of his 348 pass attempts.

"It felt like I never completed a ball when you just watch incompletion after incompletion. But it was good I learned a lot."

The knowledge is what Stafford, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and coach Mark Richt will be trying to expand on as Georgia goes through its spring practice.

"There has been improvement but there is still a lot of room for improvement," Bobo said.

There were passes that sailed and ones that fell short last year. Sometimes it was Stafford's footwork. Other times it was his decision making. Add it all up and Stafford completed just 56 percent of his passes. That was better than the 53 percent as a freshman. But it is not near the expected 62 percent.

"You want to hit a guy right in his heart and it is hard to drop those, although we have dropped a few of those over the year," Richt said. "The goal is not only to complete the ball but to hit him in such a way he can get the yards after the catch."

Mohamed Massaquoi's 84-yard touchdown against Florida is a perfect example. Stafford, with pressure in his face, hit Massaquoi in stride and allowed him to go some 60 yards after the catch for a touchdown.

"The times when you are on balance and you have got good protection and everything is going right you have got to hit the guy," Stafford said. "And that is something I have to get better at."

Too many times Stafford did not hit the receiver in 2007. And there are a couple of reasons why.

"Good footwork will help you make good decisions and when you make good decisions you can have good precision," Bobo said. "That is kind of our saying; good footwork equals good decisions equals great precision."

Because of Stafford's arm strength, he is sometimes able to get away with throwing off his back foot or not being completely set. It worked very well throughout his high school career as Stafford was able to complete passes of all types at a 65 percent clip as a senior. Back then, and in his first two years at Georgia, Stafford would rely on his arm to get him out of any mess and get his team into any big play.

"He will get there (62 percent)," wide receiver Kris Durham said. "We have been working hard with him. Our timing is getting better as we have gotten older."

The coaches at Georgia have continued to tell Stafford that big plays are not always going to win the game and make him an accurate, reliable quarterback. He said he is getting the message.

"(Watching the film) I learned a lot about just taking what the defense gives you and hitting your target," Stafford said. "Just try to make it easy on those guys to catch it."

The coaches started to see that Stafford grasped that concept more and more as the season went on. To keep Stafford interested Bobo said he would continue to call plenty of downfield throws. But he also wants Stafford to recognize when the best play is to zip it to the flat.

"We have got to get him to play four quarters on a consistent basis," he said. "He is going to have to if we want to reach our goals and if he wants to be a great quarterback. It is not always about the long ball. His job is to help move the chains.

"For him to be considered great and not just a good guy with a great arm he is going to have to learn to do those things."

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