College football countdown: No. 7 Georgia

Tuesday, August 1st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SEC hopes resting on speedy Carter

In what figures to be the year of the quarterback, one of the emerging stars of the position could initiate the end of Florida's and Tennessee's dominance of the SEC East.

And Bulldogs fans, frustrated by their team's inability to reach the SEC title game, much less return to their national championship glory of 1980, have put full faith in Quincy Carter.

In only two seasons, Carter has become the fourth-leading passer in NCAA history with 5,662 yards. At 6-3, 223, he threw 170 passes without an interception at one point last year. And he has the plus that makes today's great quarterbacks so dangerous – speed. He rushed for 503 yards last year.

But all those numbers don't mean much when Tennessee and Florida stand in the way.

"I understand that we have that third-place stigma," said Carter, a junior who originally signed with Georgia Tech but broke the Yellow Jackets' hearts with dreams of being a baseball player.

After two years in the Cubs' system, he gave up that dream and went to Georgia. Now a 22-year-old junior, Carter clearly has found his niche. If he can help the Bulldogs break through their SEC East barriers, he might have a Heisman Trophy in hand.

"Those are realistic goals, but as a team, we have to understand our own goals and what we're trying to accomplish," he said.

They are realistic because Georgia is 17-7 in SEC games over the last three years, and five of those losses have come against Tennessee or Florida. And last season's Outback Bowl victory – after trailing Purdue 25-0 ­ was the kind of confidence builder that could boost Georgia to new heights.

Carter has experienced help at receiver in Terrence Edwards (61 catches, 869 yards) and Michael Greer (34 for 418). He also has the team's leading rusher from last year, junior Jasper Sanks (902 yards, 5.0 average per carry), returning.

Defensively, tackles Richard Seymour (75 tackles, 10 for loss) and Marcus Stroud (40 tackles, six for loss) are two of the best in the nation.

The entire front line returns intact, with 10 of the 1999 defensive starters back for a team that figures to improve upon its 25.8 points allowed per game.

The key dates are Oct. 7, at home against Tennessee, and Oct. 28, in the traditional Florida game at Jacksonville.

"I've promised our fans we can win one of those," Carter said. "But I can't promise both. I don't like to make those kind of predictions."

But keep an eye on the Bulldogs, just in case.

Georgia Schedule- Sept 2 Georgia Southern; Sept 9 at South Carolina; Sept 23 New Mexico State; Sept 30 at Arkansas; Oct 7 Tennessee; Oct 14 Vanderbilt; Oct 21 at Kentucky; Oct 28 Florida (at Jacksonville); Nov 11 at Auburn; Nov 18 Mississippi; Nov 25 at Georgia Tech

Georgia Bulldogs Capsule

COACH: Jim Donnan (32-15 in four years at Georgia; 96-36 in 10 years overall).

LAST YEAR: 8-4 (beat Purdue in Outback Bowl).

OUT: Defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey, fired after one year and replaced with former Oklahoma head coach Gary Gibbs. Gibbs came out of retirement to take the position.

IN: Emphasis on special teams. Georgia's special teams have ranked among the nation's worst, and Donnan addressed the problems in the spring.

BIG PLUS: The Bulldogs lost only six starters from last year's Outback Bowl lineup and have a talented and veteran cast.

BIG MINUS: Gifted and versatile quarterback Quincy Carter has suffered two concussions. Consequently, Georgia runs less option than it did last year.

NATIONAL TITLE IF: Carter stays healthy and the defense improves even just a little bit from last year.

Top 25 So Far

25. Clemson
24. Mississippi
23. So. Miss.
22. Utah
21. Texas A&M
20. Penn State
19. Tennessee
18. Colorado
17. Oklahoma
16. Purdue
15. Illinois
14. Kansas State
13. Florida
12. Ohio State
11. TCU
10. USC
9. Wisconsin
8. Michigan
7. Georgia