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June 28, 2009In a recent poll of Georgia players, the Bulldogs were asked to vote who they thought were the best leaders on the team.
The name of quarterback Joe Cox appeared on 107 of 110 of the ballots received.
Although time will obviously tell whether the fifth-year senior will be able to successfully navigate the Bulldogs through the rigors of the 2009 campaign, there's no denying that his teammates are happy to take their marching orders from him.
"Everybody's following Joe's lead," said defensive tackle Jeff Owens, himself a key member of Georgia's "do-as-I-say" club. "Everybody respects what he's done. I think that (the poll) says it all."
Cox admits he was pleased to learn the results, though not necessarily surprised.
During an interview inside the team meeting room at the Butts-Mehre Building, Cox addressed his role, one he takes very seriously and is more than happy to have.
"It doesn't surprise me because I think we just needed a person to step up and do that (lead). I knew it would happen when somebody would do it the right way. It's not really surprising but it is a gratifying feeling to know that your peers will listen to you, try to step up as leaders too within their own segments and that's really exciting," Cox said. "We've got guys who have never been vocal guys who are stepping up and leading and that's pretty cool to see that come together."
Head coach Mark Richt wasn't shocked that Cox was such a popular choice.
On the contrary.
"The rest of the players see Joe in practice every day," he said. "They know he understands the system and they know he puts the team first. Everybody believes in Joe."
There's a little bit of "underdog" in Cox that appears to be transferring over to the rest of the team as well.
Unlike last year when the Bulldogs were a preseason No. 1, this year's expectations are nowhere near what they were last fall.
But according to Cox, that's not a bad thing. Sometimes having a bad attitude can be very good.
"We want to prove people wrong. Get everybody off to a good start and see us finish the drill," Cox said. "There's a lot of accountability that's on my shoulders. I know I've got a big role and I've been preparing myself for that because that's the one thing that is going to be different. I think I'm doing what I need to do to be ready for that and I think I'll be good to go."
Apparently, the message is getting across.
Cox said attendance at summer weightlifting, pass skel and other individual position workouts have been 100 percent. That's not all.
"In years past, say we had a rain day, we'd cancel it or go outside and not do pass skel. We'd try to do something fun, but this year, no. This year we just wait until it quits or lightens up," he said. "The intensity of the pass skel is real competitive out there and we're trying to find ways to make it fun so it stays competitive throughout the whole summer. "We're getting after it with each other, defense and offense. Our defense is looking great, guys are flying around, and we've got guys making plays on our side of the ball. It's fast tempo and everybody's having a good time with it."
Thus far Cox likes what he sees.
However, there's still work to be done.
"I've been impressed with all of them and think they'll be able to step in and contribute this year, some more than others," Cox said. "But I do like what I've seen. There are a lot of guys that have the ability to step in and help out."
Cox is also spending extra time working with the offensive line.
Although each unit on the team still works out on their own, Cox, the running backs and the offensive line have spent their share of hours working on pass protection and blitz pickup after pass skel drills are complete.
"We're just trying to do as much as we can, get everybody on the same page and bond together," Cox said. "I think we've got off to a good start."
He can't wait for the season-opener at Oklahoma State.
"Everybody has bought into the things I've been preaching about buying into and everyone is having a good time with this whole moment, people doubting us," he said. "Everybody is on everybody's side right now. It's been very gratifying to see."