Aaron Murray will give Georgia what it has been missing

It's Aaron Murray's show now, and Georgia will go as he goes this season. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

It's Aaron Murray's show now, and Georgia will go as he goes this season. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

ATHENS – Success in game one of season one shouldn’t be used as much of a barometer because, fact is, Georgia shouldn’t lose its opener to Louisiana-Lafayette. Blow this, and it will be apparent the Bulldogs’ problems are much bigger than a freshman quarterback.

But it’s easy to come away with a good feeling about Aaron Murray. Maybe it’s the fact he is more head than arm. Maybe it’s because he frequently exchanges text messages and studies game tapes of David Greene, who seemed almost robotically perfect as a college quarterback. Maybe it was just the way Murray reacted when Zach Mettenberger, who figured to be the other half of Georgia’s starting quarterback battle, was kicked off the team in April for sexual battery.

“It was upsetting to me and I talked to Zach for a little bit about it the day it happened,” Murray said. “But it made me step up more in terms of knowing I had to take that leadership role. Logan [Gray] had moved to receiver. Zach was gone. The young guys hadn’t come in yet.  I was really the only guy. It was my job. I had to step up and make sure I was doing all the right things.”

Freshman quarterbacks can make coaches want to cover their eyes. Mark Richt admitted his frustrations Tuesday with Matthew Stafford, noting that, “Guys with that kind of arm strength and that kind of ability can’t help themselves sometimes.” They spend too much time trying to be the super hero.

If the Dogs are successful this season, it will be because Murray plays more like Greene, who set an NCAA record with 42 wins (later surpassed by Colt McCoy’s 45) and an SEC record for 214 consecutive passes without an interception (that one still stands).

Improvement by the defense with new coordinator Todd Grantham obviously is important. So is exceedingly more resolve and discipline among players who have accounted for too many penalties on the field and too many arrests off of it.

But ultimately, a football team follows its quarterback. The Dogs won SEC titles with Greene and D.J. Shockley for a reason. Or two reasons: intelligence and leadership. Under Stafford, they won frequently but were sporadic at times for lack of the same.

When Richt was asked what he has learned from working with freshman quarterbacks, he said: “What I’ve learned is that you’re better off starting slow with a smaller package [of plays] and repping him over and over again. Hopefully you have success and you can grow as you go. Most of these guys were pretty good playmakers in high school. Sometimes they feel like they need to make a play, [like] they have to do something spectacular. [But] it’s not just ad-lib. You don’t have to be a hero.”

And then this: “Greene was really the only one who went through it unscathed, or close to unscathed. He was very disciplined in what he did. Stafford wanted to make plays. He was about doing great things. Guys with that kind of arm strength and that kind of ability can’t help themselves sometimes. If you look at Stafford, we struggled with him. At the end of [his freshman] year, when he quit turning it over, we won. We beat No. 5 Auburn. We beat Tech. We beat Virginia Tech. He just finally kept from trying to be that hero.”

Murray has watched several of Greene’s game tapes, as well as highlight packages of the same plays being run by Greene, Shockley and Stafford and himself ( in practice).

Murray on Greene: “He was always extremely smooth in everything he did. He was always so poised.”

His biggest challenge now? Staying calm. When asked if he gets nervous before starts, he said: “I wouldn’t say nervous. I’d say juiced up. It would be a good thing if I was on defense. I’d probably try to take someone’s head off.”

But he has learned ways to calm down, he said, listening to “some mellow, slow-jam country music. No Eminem or any rock.”

He’s going to make mistakes. As Richt said, “He’s going to be finding his way.” When he gets there, so will Georgia.

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Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

245 comments Add your comment

mike Jay

August 31st, 2010
4:23 pm

Yep, he’s gonna be a good one.

Jamaaliver

August 31st, 2010
4:24 pm

Mark Richt’s job may depend on him.

Murray > Brantley

August 31st, 2010
4:28 pm

Murray may have the strongest arm of any QB in the SEC. He’ll put up huge numbers with his running game and great receivers. Look for the Dawgs to upset florida, win 11 and win the SEC! You heard it here first—dawgs back on top!!! Florida’s run is over!!!!!!!!

Bruce Levinson

August 31st, 2010
4:33 pm

Do you know if he is planning on wearing gloves? What are the black bones for and what time is Dawg Walk on Saturday?

SOUTHGADAWG88

August 31st, 2010
4:34 pm

We are going to have a good team.Championship caliber team.

NC Dawg

August 31st, 2010
4:36 pm

6th and I had a bet with Matthews Dawg I would be first next time! Oh well, Go Dawgs and Murray is the REAL DEAL!!

Barry

August 31st, 2010
4:39 pm

If Murray has a 4 td to int ratio, 13-1.
3.5 td to int ratio, 10-3.
3.0 td to int ratio, 9-4.
2.5 td to int ratio, 8-5.
2.0 td to int ratio, 7-6
1.5 td to int ratio, Richt and Bobo lose their jobs and are fired, deservingly so.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

August 31st, 2010
4:39 pm

He’s the smartest guy on the whole team—an IQ of 79 and pulls a C- average. I’m the second smartest, but I don’t have classes so I have no average. Neither of us ever got arrested. The rest of the team kind of looks down on us for that. To them, we’re oddballs.

Ooops! I see the guy pulling the paint can out of the storage shed. Later, folks.

Natureboy809

August 31st, 2010
4:39 pm

Murray > Brantley- I like what I have seen from Murray too, and I expect big things from him. But strongest arm in the SEC? Have you seen Mallett throw a football?

Natureboy809

August 31st, 2010
4:41 pm

Also- Schultz’s assessment of UGA being “sporadic” under Stafford- sure he cost UGA some games as a freshman, but the reason UGA was “inconsistent” was often the defense. How many games you think Shockley or Greene win when UGA gives up 30 or even 40 points?

JaxDawg

August 31st, 2010
4:42 pm

@ Bruce Levinson: He’s not going to be wearing the glove, The black bones are for academic accomplishments, not sure when the Dawg Walk is on Saturday.

PTC DAWG

August 31st, 2010
4:43 pm

Time will tell…

JB

August 31st, 2010
4:43 pm

Hopefully he truly realizes that he doesn’t have to do anything but be competent. At least for the fist half of the season. Get his legs under him and get a clue. If he can do that, with everyone else around him coming back and we just may be able to do some damage, this season.

HBTD!!!

Nick

August 31st, 2010
4:45 pm

Jeff,

Didn’t you say the same thing about Joe Cox last year? I’ll make my judgement Sept. 11

maybe

August 31st, 2010
4:46 pm

I think the black bones are for achievements in academics…

Go Gators!

August 31st, 2010
4:46 pm

I always get a laugh out of the preseason optimisim of UGA fans. Then I almost feel sorry for them every year when reality sets in.

Come on guys…2 SEC championships in 30 years and you think you are going to win one this year?

Mike

August 31st, 2010
4:47 pm

I look for Murray to throw 20-25 td’s, and just 5-7 int’s. Yes, he’ll throw some int’s, but needs to make sure he throws a lot more td’s than int’s.

BugKiller

August 31st, 2010
4:48 pm

Nick,

Let’s be honest… Joe Cox = JTIII.

Aaron Murray won the Florida High School Championship on a barely-healed broken leg. He’s a guy who has “it.”

Joe Cox never had “it.”

Also, Joe Cox played on a team where the defense was “coached” (I use the term loosely) by Soft Willie Martinez.

Aaron Murray doesn’t have that HUGE disadvantage.

"Chef" Tim Dix

August 31st, 2010
4:48 pm

He does say the right things.

Kirk

August 31st, 2010
4:50 pm

Football is a team sport.

You don’t rely on any `1 position.

The other positions (WR/TE/RB/O-LINE/FB) and team units (DEFENSE & SPECIAL TEAMS) will more than make up for his learning curve.

Absolutely no problemo.

BugKiller

August 31st, 2010
4:50 pm

Go Gators,

Let me ask you something.

In 100 years, how many SEC Championships did YOUR program win?

What’s that? ZERO? They won ZERO titles in 100 years?

YOUR HISTORY DIDN’T BEGIN IN 1991 YOU MULLET-HEADED, JORT-WEARING, IGNORANT, SMELLY REDNECK.

Stop acting as if it did.

Before 1991, you WERE Mississippi State. Be more mindful of your history.

Nick

August 31st, 2010
4:51 pm

I agree with you BugKiller, but I’m just saying that I heard the same optimism last year. It was the defense’s fault, but Joe Cox’s arm wasn’t great and he was a pretty big recruit out of NC the year he came out. GO DAWGS!!

Bailey

August 31st, 2010
4:51 pm

McElroy didn’t win any games for Alabama.

6 touchodowns, 4 interceptions. modest numbers. they went 14-0. don’t need qb to be great, just not bad.

mike Jay

August 31st, 2010
4:51 pm

Yea I’m not sure Murray has even the fith strongest arm in the SEC. And i don’t care. He needs to lead the team, take care of the football, and make smart decisions. He’s a winner who has that ‘it’ factor from everything i have read. Should be fun to watch him grow and improve.

GoodLuckAaron

August 31st, 2010
4:51 pm

LOL at the whole minimization of what Stafford meant to the program…b/c look how great they did after the #1 NFL DRAFT PICK left. They had problems b/c Stafford was trying to be a hero? Ha, ha, I wonder if it occurred to anyone that they might have not had some of the embarassing losses to Tennesse and Alabama if anyone else on the team had stepped up and tried to be one. Richt sounds like Pete Carroll did when he was asked about Sanchez leaving early.

5150 P.O.A.D.

August 31st, 2010
4:53 pm

I hope he he has learned to lay down and not get hit or he will break in so many little pieces.

Go Gators!

August 31st, 2010
4:54 pm

I also get a laugh how Urban doesn’t suspend his players when they get arrested but Richt does. Sucks for UGA!

http://miamiherald.typepad.com/gator_clause/2010/08/gators-freshmen-matt-elam-and-solomon-patton-arrested-for-possession-of-alcohol.html

Hey Bug Killer

August 31st, 2010
4:54 pm

First off Bug Killer learn to count, Florida has played football for 104 years. Secondly it must be embarrassing that a team that was Miss State prior to 1991 has more National Titles than your team and is everything now you wish your team was. Congrats on bringing up the history but Gator fans will gladly take being your daddy here in the present than being like you and having to envoke the days of your grand daddies to brag.

Einsteindawg

August 31st, 2010
4:55 pm

The best thing Murray has going for him is the absence of Willie “bend but don’t let them score too much” Martinez. UGA will be just fine defensively, and if we sputter offensively, then it’s time to replace Bobo with a legitimate SEC OC. (And, maybe a new headcoach for not recognizing this sooner).

Bailey

August 31st, 2010
4:56 pm

Greene went for 2800 yards, 59% accuracy, 17 td’s, 9 interceptions.

Murray must do better on the interceptions, but can be worse in yards, accuracy, and td’s.

5150 P.O.A.D.

August 31st, 2010
4:57 pm

Actually I just saw a pic of him and he is pretty muscular. Nevermind!

Bryan G.

August 31st, 2010
4:57 pm

I think Stafford’s ability actually covered up a lot of problems with the o-line that we didn’t notice until the first part of 2009. What would Staff have done with the 2002 or 2010 O-lines???

Bailey

August 31st, 2010
4:57 pm

McElroy went 16 td’s, 4 int’s. pretty modest. 14-0 record. you don’t need a great qb in the sec, you need great defense, solid sp teams, and a qb who respects the football.

John

August 31st, 2010
5:02 pm

“Aaron Murray will give Georgia what it has been missing”

What is that? A designated driver?

Drew

August 31st, 2010
5:03 pm

Keep dreaming and drinkin that kool aid. We hear the same thing every year from you guys. 17/20 and it’s only going to get worse.

5150 P.O.A.D.

August 31st, 2010
5:03 pm

4:57 fake 5051 poad hell tome cruse is musclular too, but he is only 5-9. Well, murry is 5-11 and muscles or not he don’t need to get hit.

Bail Bonds R Us

August 31st, 2010
5:04 pm

“Aaron Murray will give Georgia what it has been missing”

So, Murray’s decided to be a Parole Officer ??

Natureboy809

August 31st, 2010
5:05 pm

I don’t see why Einsteindawg and others bang on Bobo so much. I like his play calling 10-1 over the “stop our run on 2 consecutive plays and we’ll throw it the rest of the game” pass happy style Richt called. Our offense was arguably the best it has ever been under Bobo in 2007-2008.
I know your instant response- “Well yeah…we Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno!” To which I respond- “Well last year we had Joe Cox and Richard Samuel (at RB for most of the year)”. Can’t have it both ways. If you have no QB and no RB, what do you want us to do, mail the ball?

ReddJonn68

August 31st, 2010
5:05 pm

I’m sorry fellow Dawg fans, but I hope Murray is much better than Greene. Watching the Dawgs during the Greene era was fun but painful we never got over the hump with the talent he was surrounded with. Greene’s arm was just like Matt Leinart’s & he thrived in Richt’s system. I hope this guy can put some zip on the ball & throw a few deep zingers , using some of this speed we have been recruiting. I wish you luck Murray, I hope you don’t become a victim of Bobo’s system !!!!

Grant

August 31st, 2010
5:05 pm

If Ealey/King run well, opens up play action.

McElroy av 16 yards per play on play action, 7 ypp non-play action,.

sunny purdue

August 31st, 2010
5:08 pm

Go Gators. You are correct sir. Please remember uga wins a big one every 100 or so years. That’s it. One lousy championship since 1883. No wonder they are tender about anyone who has had spectacular success for 20 years. They cannot understand it.They can call you names, they can hurl meaningless insults but they have won one MNC since 1883. Try to imagine their shame when they realize Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Army, Cornell and Penn have won more that they have. Finally, who in Georgia is allowed to call anyone else a redneck – are you kidding me?

Really?

August 31st, 2010
5:08 pm

5150 P.O.A.D. – so because he is 5′11 he will break into many pieces but if he was 6′3 he wouldn’t break into many pieces? I am pretty sure durability in a QB has more to do with being muscular and being able to sustain a hit then just being tall. But nice try!

sunny purdue

August 31st, 2010
5:09 pm

I am an idiot and like dudes!

One dimensional dogs

August 31st, 2010
5:10 pm

The same old bs every year. What is even more hysterical is the qb is a redshirt fresh. I guess some people were born stupid.
At best 9-3. Worst 6-6. Most likely 7-5 or 8-4.

Grant

August 31st, 2010
5:10 pm

If Murray throws int’s like he was in Spring, al la Joe Cox Jr, you have to bench him and bring in Mason or Gray. We can’t let 1 guy derail the whole season.

James

August 31st, 2010
5:12 pm

Same od garbage we hear from critics every time Richt has a bad season. Heard it in 2001 & 2006. Critics were wrong both times, way off, as Georgia finishes in top 3 both times. Looking at 11-14 wins, based on how Richt responds after bad seasons.

404

August 31st, 2010
5:12 pm

SEC teams should have a simple Defensive strategy against UGA.

Load the Box.
Bump the receivers.
Kill Murray.

Game over.

Jona

August 31st, 2010
5:15 pm

Go Gators is only in his twenties. Didn’t know Florida played football before the 90’s.

kill-9

August 31st, 2010
5:16 pm

Big test will be week #2 with SC. Get by that one and we’ll see.

Harrison

August 31st, 2010
5:17 pm

SI has Georgia in a BCS winning SEC East.
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/stewart_mandel/08/27/2010-bowl-projections/index.html?xid=cnnbin&hpt=Sbin

Phil Steele says offense will average 38 points a game and 475 yards a game.