Thursday, January 17, 2013
Depth chart stacked behind Murray
By David Ching
ATHENS, Ga. -- While Georgia makes across-the-board changes with its defensive personnel, the Bulldogs will deal with the exact opposite situation at quarterback.
They have a depth chart loaded with five scholarship players, plus a walk-on who essentially served as the No. 2 quarterback by season’s end.
One thing is clear, however.
“Aaron [Murray] is obviously the starting quarterback,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said last week of his record-setting starter. “He’s the guy right now. Everybody knows that. There’s no question about that part.”
No, the questions concern how things will shake out behind the fourth-year starter on a depth chart that adds junior Hutson Mason -- who redshirted last fall to gain a year of separation between himself and Murray -- back to a mix that already includes rising sophomore Christian LeMay, redshirt freshman Faton Bauta, walk-on Parker Welch and 2013 early enrollee Brice Ramsey.
Mason might have been the odds-on favorite to start in 2013, had Murray opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft. But it appears Murray’s longtime backup will remain in that role for one more season, which Mason admitted to his hometown Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal was “frustrating because I was hoping for the opportunity to compete to be the guy this year.”
Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have repeatedly stated that Mason is prepared to perform capably, but his opportunities will probably be limited, barring injury to the starter. Murray is poised to etch his name atop the UGA and SEC record books in most key passing categories in the fall.
Should everyone remain on the roster -- and to this point, nobody has publicly hinted at a transfer -- it appears as though a competitive battle for a starting spot will begin around this time next year.
“It’s just a tough situation because he’s a great quarterback,” Murray said of Mason before referring to a somewhat similar situation from early in Richt’s UGA tenure.
Sophomore Christian LeMay will compete for the backup quarterback job behind Aaron Murray.
“It’s just like [David] Greene and [D.J.] Shockley, when Shockley is an unbelievable quarterback but he only had his one year to shine. That’s just how it works sometimes.”
Greene led Georgia to an SEC championship in 2002 and a division title the following season before finally giving way to his dual-threat understudy in 2005. All Shockley did as a senior was lead the Bulldogs to their last league title in his one season as a starter.
Richt believes Mason is ready for the same opportunity whenever it arises.
“If something happened to Aaron, would Hutson be ready to play? Yes, he would,” Richt said. “And given that, whatever game circumstance that comes up, would Hutson be able to play and play well? I think absolutely. So that’s kind of where we are. But the other guys [at quarterback], too, they’ve still got things to learn and try to perfect.”
That starts with LeMay, who is entering his third season on campus.
Like Murray and Ramsey, LeMay was an ESPN 150 honoree when he signed with Georgia in 2011. He opened the 2012 season as Murray’s backup while Mason redshirted, but might have been a bit rusty after sitting out the previous two seasons.
In his most extensive playing time of the season, he committed two turnovers -- including an interception return for a touchdown -- in the fourth quarter of a win against Florida Atlantic. Welch entered ensuing games ahead of LeMay when the Bulldogs turned to a backup quarterback.
During bowl practices, LeMay spoke philosophically about how the season had been a learning experience that taught him the value of staying focused and patient.
“Something might not come to you as quickly as you want it to, whether it be on or off the field, even in life in general,” he said. “Sometimes you expect certain things and it doesn’t happen -- not because it’s not meant to be, but just because you’re not quite there yet.”
It was evident, however, that LeMay viewed Georgia’s pro-style offense as a system that would allow him to develop his skills to the point that he might someday fulfill his college and professional goals.
“Typically these top [NFL] guys are coming from these pro-style systems because it’s so rare to find a pro-style guy. It just makes it more of a hot commodity,” LeMay said.
“Going out there on a daily basis and seeing somebody execute it to perfection the way that Aaron does and being able to just watch film of how it’s supposed to be done, it makes the job a whole lot easier for me to just go out there and look and see what I’m supposed to do and put my spin on it and just go out there and do it.”