Georgia's Stafford, Moreno enter 2009 NFL draft
By CHARLES ODUM
AP Sports Writer
By CHARLES ODUM
ATHENS, Ga. — With Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno headed to the NFL, Georgia probably won't have to worry about another preseason No. 1 ranking in 2009.
Stafford, a junior who set a school record with 25 touchdown passes this season, and Moreno, only the second Georgia player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, said Wednesday they are leaving school to enter the NFL draft.
Neither decision was a surprise. Each is a projected first-round pick.
After the two announced their decisions, Georgia coach Mark Richt offered advice for NFL executives: "Trade up for them, if you're smart."
"I think whichever NFL teams get them will be very excited and very blessed by it," Richt said. "They'll not only be good players but they'll be good in their locker rooms and good in their communities. They're gonna do well."
Stafford returned to campus from his family's home in Dallas for Wednesday's announcement. Moreno made the trip from Belford, N.J.
Todd McShay, director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc., said Stafford (6-3, 230) may be the top pick in the draft.
"Matthew Stafford drives NFL scouts crazy because he's got it all," McShay said. "He has it all. Prototypical size, a rifle arm."
McShay said Stafford and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford could be the two top quarterbacks in the draft, assuming Bradford also declares early. The Sooners play Florida for the BCS national championship Thursday night.
One of the two quarterbacks could end up in Detroit, which has the No. 1 pick, and playing for the first 0-16 team in league history doesn't seem to bother Stafford.
"That's fine with me," Stafford said. "I'd love to play anywhere that wants me to play and try to make them a winner."
Stafford said he was advised by the NFL draft board that he'd be a first-round pick, but he said he wasn't advised how high in the round he could expect to be taken.
Moreno, a third-year sophomore, didn't have the benefit of advice from the NFL draft board.
"I didn't get my papers in on time," Moreno said with a smile, causing Richt to laugh, shake his head and briefly cover his eyes.
Moreno said he consulted only with his college coaches and family.
"I prayed a little bit also about my decision," he said.
Stafford and Moreno formed one of the most productive backfield tandems in school history.
The two stars led Georgia to 12 wins and a No. 2 finish in the final poll last season, and they helped make the Bulldogs the preseason No. 1 pick this season.
Georgia finished a disappointing 10-3, but Stafford and Moreno had big years.
Moreno had 1,400 yards rushing with 16 touchdowns this season to join Herschel Walker as the only players in school history with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Stafford, protected by a young offensive line, passed for 3,459 yards and set a school record with 3,499 yards of total offense.
Stafford passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns and was most valuable player of Georgia's Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State. He said Wednesday that he was leaning toward entering the draft after the regular season but had second thoughts after the bowl win.
"Taking off the pads for the last time was really tough," Stafford said. "That was the toughest part for me, the fact that it came to a head that it was really over, but I know this was the right decision for me."
After Wednesday's news conference, Stafford ducked into the locker room at Georgia's football facility and emerged holding the nameplate from his locker.
Georgia loses some other familiar names from its offense, including receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, fullback Brannan Southerland and tight end Tripp Chandler.
Caleb King and Richard Samuel, who played behind Moreno as freshmen this season, will move up at tailback, while senior Joe Cox will likely get the starting job at quarterback.
Cox said the loss of so many players should lead to less pressure.
"It's going to be a big help not to be preseason No. 1," Cox said.