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Kicking it with Georgia's Joe Cox

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

ATHENS, Ga. -- Joe Cox is accustomed to waiting in the shadows.

The fifth-year senior quarterback played for two years behind former Florida quarterback Chris Leak at Independence High School in Charlotte, N.C., before getting his chance.

He's waited for four years at Georgia, playing the past two years behind the guy who might be the No. 1 pick in April's NFL draft, Matthew Stafford.

So forgive Cox if he's soaking in everything this spring and leaving nothing to chance. This is his only shot to lead this football team the way he wants to.

Sure, he's always been a leader behind the scenes, a guy who knows the playbook inside and out, a guy who does things the right way and a guy who's been there in any capacity whenever the team has needed him.

As a redshirt freshman three years ago, he came off the bench to bail the Bulldogs out against Colorado and threw a game-winning touchdown pass with 46 seconds remaining.

But it's his team now, and with Knowshon Moreno, Mohamad Massaquoi and Stafford all gone, the challenge to keep the Georgia offensive machine going will be a daunting one.

It's a challenge Cox insists he's up to, and more importantly, one his coaches and teammates insist he's up to.

Cox, a fiery redhead, sat down with me on Thursday, and here's my Q&A with him:

With Stafford's career taking off the last two years, did you ever think you were in the wrong place at the wrong time? You probably could have been the starter at a lot of other schools.

JC: I never tried to look at it that way, because I knew it wouldn't do me any good. I knew when I signed here that this was the place for me and where I wanted to be no matter if I was playing or not. I knew they were going to be bringing in top players at every position every year. It was definitely difficult not playing, but I still tried to look at the positives. I learned a lot and felt like I helped the younger guys, being in the huddle with them and helping them get on the field quicker.

What do you provide to this offense?

JC: I'm a competitor, and with me being a vocal leader and being a real fiery guy with the way I play on the field, I think that can bring a spark to the offense that we maybe haven't had in the past. I know I don't have the strongest arm. I'm not the fastest guy or the tallest guy, but I'm going to do everything in my power to win games.

It's a lot easier to be a leader when you're actually playing, isn't it?

JC: You can't be a real vocal guy as far as leadership when you're not playing. It's good to finally get in that role, because that's where I'm comfortable. I like being the guy that's always being loud and trying to get guys up, and now I'll really have a chance to do that.

A lot has been made of your height. You're listed at 6-foot-1. How tall are you really?

JC: Who knows? They say I'm 6-1. But after seeing all these guys at the combine get their true heights, I don't even know. I don't want to know. But there's only one statistic that matters, and that's the 'W' in the win-loss column. If you're 5-6 and get it done, I don't think it matters at all.

You're taking over an offense that put up some of the best numbers in school history last season and was incredibly balanced. Does that make your job even more difficult?

JC: Numbers mean a lot, but they don't mean everything if you're not having the success that you should. We don't care what kind of numbers we have this year. We're going to find ways to win, and that's what we're focusing on right now -- being mentally tough and being the team that's going to last for 60 minutes and put up a fight no matter who we play or where we play.

You guys won 10 games last season. But when you're ranked No. 1 going into the year and fail to play in the SEC championship game or a BCS bowl game, nobody obviously is going to be happy. How disappointing was last season given the expectations?

JC: The most disappointing thing, when you consider how much hype we had coming in and we didn't do as well as we expected, was that it wasn't something that made everybody mad. That's what we're trying to get right now, an attitude that our backs are against the wall and we've got to earn everything. There were times last year I thought when things were going bad that people started hanging their heads. It was like we got in a rut and couldn't get out.

How comforting is it for any quarterback to look out there and see A.J. Green lining up for you at receiver?

JC: I think he's one of the best receivers in college football. It's always good to have a guy you know can make plays like that when the ball is just near him. It definitely takes a lot of pressure off me and takes a lot of pressure off the play calling. You just have to find ways to get him the ball. I've also been pleased with the other receivers -- Mike Moore, Tavarres King, Kris Durham, Tony Wilson. We've got a good group.

Will the offense change much with you at quarterback?

JC: I honestly don't see it changing much. We're doing the same things in practice that we've always done. We don't have any special packages that we had to put in or anything we had to take out after all those guys left. It really comes down to the new guys, including me, that are coming in to step up and carry on what's been happening here on offense.

What's it like to have the two freshmen quarterbacks, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, on campus this spring and learning under you?

JC: It will definitely push me, and it will keep me on my toes as well because they ask questions. It always makes you better and smarter with your knowledge of the offense when you have younger guys asking you questions. I almost feel like a coach out there.