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.
Have you entered the “Sack Schultz” contest yet? You can win tickets to the Georgia-Georgia Tech game and an HDTV. CLICK HERE for details.
Last 4 episodes on instant re-post . . .