Not Just Another Joe: In Which Former Georgia Quarterback's Footsteps Will Joe Cox Follow?

I'm beginning to wonder whether, after his comeback against Colorado, we shouldn't have just frozen Joe Cox in Carbonite and propped him up in a display case in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall with a plaque reading "If we can't score two times, we don't deserve to wear Gs on our helmets." You have to love the kid, but, honestly, it seems like his moment has passed and he is merely the placeholder on the depth chart providing additional incentive to Logan Gray to apply himself.

T. Kyle King (April 7, 2008)

I have faith in Cox, but there is little actual, objective evidence regarding his in-game performance; he could be the next Greene or (less likely) Shockley, but he could also be JTIII redux. We just don’t know, and anointing him now as the next Greene could leave a lot of folks in for a big surprise.

wwcmrd? (April 21, 2009)

Deep down in my heart of hearts, I am afraid the Bulldogs are going 7-5 in 2009. When push comes to shove, I find that Joe Cox is the focal point of all my hopes and all my fears about Georgia’s prospects for the fall. Is Cox the caretaking placeholder quarterback I took him to be a year ago, or is he the inspiring team player who can lead this team to glory? Is he the record-setting high school quarterback rated as the seventh-best in the nation at his position by Rivals as a prep signal caller, or is he the guy who took the starter’s role from Matthew Stafford and couldn’t keep it?

In short, is Joe C. the next David Greene, the next D.J. Shockley, or the next Joe T.?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Joe Cox is the next Dick Young.

Young was the Bulldogs’ backup quarterback in 1955, behind senior signal caller Jimmy Harper, the son and namesake of a Red and Black football letterman on Herman Stegeman’s undefeated 1920 squad. Harper fils had been Georgia’s passing leader in 1954.

Admittedly, this was not much of an achievement. Wally Butts is underappreciated today as an offensive innovator, but 1954 was not one of the better years for what had been a vaunted Bulldog passing attack. In the split-T (or, as Coach Butts called it, "the sliding T"; he had been using wide line splits, a la Mike Leach, since installing the original T formation in the mid-1940s), Harper had managed only to go 29 of 71 for 407 yards, eight interceptions, and two touchdowns in his junior year.

In the second game of the 1955 campaign, Georgia found itself trailing Vanderbilt in Sanford Stadium by a 13-0 margin at halftime. (Prior to 1952, the Bulldogs had gone 4-10-1 all-time against the Commodores.) Coach Butts and his quarterbacks coach, former Georgia all-American John Rauch, decided to make a change under center.

In the third quarter, Jimmy Harper was yanked from the lineup and replaced by Dick Young. The new quarterback led the Red and Black to a pair of second-half scores and Georgia prevailed over a Gator Bowl-bound Vandy outfit by a 14-13 margin. Does that sound like anyone we know?

1955 was Young’s last year as a football letterman, and he made the most of it. After his heroics against the Music City Sailors, Young went on to lead the Classic City Canines in passing, completing 48 of 97 attempts for 875 yards and eight touchdowns to offset his eight picks.

Those aren’t impressive numbers by modern standards, but they were solid statistics for that era. After Dick Young threw eight touchdown passes in 1955, only three other Georgia quarterbacks would equal that mark in the next 23 seasons: Larry Rakestraw in 1962, Mike Cavan in 1968, and Matt Robinson in 1974. After Zeke Bratkowski in 1952, no Bulldog signal caller would throw as many as ten touchdown passes in a season until Buck Belue threw eleven in 1980.

Likewise, Young’s 875 passing yards in a single autumn were remarkably comparable to the numbers put up by such future Georgia passing leaders as Jeff Pyburn (878 yards in 1978), Greg Talley (871 yards in 1990), and Hines Ward (872 yards in 1995). After Young but before Belue, the only Bulldog quarterbacks to top 900 aerial yards in a campaign were Fran Tarkenton, Larry Rakestraw, Mike Cavan, and Matt Robinson.

In short, Dick Young had a breakthrough moment against Vanderbilt eerily similar to Joe Cox’s signature performance against Colorado, right down to the venue, the circumstances, and the final score. Young went on to become a solid, but not spectacular, starter under center.

I’m fairly confident that, if only because of the supporting cast, the 2009 Bulldogs will fare better than the 1955 Bulldogs---even I would consider 4-6 a pretty dour prognostication---but, if Joe Cox lives up to the reasonable and reachable standard set by the Red and Black predecessor he most closely resembles, Georgia has more than a puncher’s chance to make some noise this fall.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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