I know many UGA fans at this point are tired of talking about the Zach Mettenberger situation, especially since it doesn’t look like we’re going to get the full story about why Mark Richt kicked him off the team any time soon.
There are a lot of rumors circulating, but no one in a position to confirm what happened is talking. Suffice it to say from what we’ve seen of Richt over the years, you have to assume that when additional information about what happened in Remerton reached him, it crossed some boundary that made tacking on a few more games’ suspension not enough punishment. Possibly the head coach found out he’d been lied to.
I do know one thing: Richt wouldn’t throw this kid’s UGA career away lightly. He’s bent over backwards to near-contortionist levels to give players a second chance in the past.
He anguishes over having to deal with wayward players. After the Touchdown Club of Athens meeting last week, I was thanking him for the classy way he’d handled the taxi incident allegations and the sorry saga of Montez Robinson. Richt said he appreciated it and shook his head over the Robinson affair. You always hope that you can turn a kid like that around, but sometimes you can’t, he said with a sad look on his face. “And you wonder why you couldn’t connect with him completely.”
Added Richt: “I really hate that it was so public, too.”
Well, I said, that’s the other side of the coin for big-time college athletes. He agreed. Some, he said, love the spotlight and flourish in it. He was probably thinking of Jeff Owens, David Pollack and others. And then there are those who don’t like the attention at all. “Take A.J. Green,” Richt said. “He doesn’t want anything to do with all that. He just wants to play football.”
Mettenberger, obviously, fell into the group who didn’t handle the spotlight well. And whatever he did, his story is, I think, over at UGA. I’ve heard speculation that maybe he could go away to Georgia Military for a year like Odell Thurman did and then come back to Athens, but I think that’s highly unlikely. Usually when that’s a possibility, Richt says so from the start. Plus, Mettenberger probably would just as soon start over at another program.
So we’re left with Aaron Murray and Logan Gray. Some still hold out hope that Gray the “athlete” will prove to be an SEC-caliber quarterback, and there’s always that possibility, but if he winds up as the Dogs’ starter, I think you’re talking more of a caretaker QB until Murray develops or someone else steps forward. Sort of Joe Cox with less of an arm but more scrambling ability.
No, it’s more than likely that Murray is UGA’s best bet behind center. A year ago, everyone was sky-high on the prospect of him playing quarterback for the Dogs. But the fact that he’s a bit short and has been injury-prone, plus his lackluster showing this spring, has cooled fans’ ardor for him quite a bit.
I’m hopeful, though, that he’ll yet rise to the occasion, as Erk would say. You know he’s a tough competitor just based on the way he came back from a broken leg to lead his high school team to a championship. He showed some really good moves at G-Day but kept overthrowing wide-open receivers. Perhaps the competition with the strong-armed Mettenberger had Murray pressing too hard.
We’ve seen that situation at QB before. Remember how awful D.J. Shockley looked at times when he was battling the cool field general David Greene for playing time? Richt usually built a certain number of guaranteed series into games for Shockley (when he was healthy), but D.J. often looked like he was trying too hard, as in that awful interception he threw against Florida. And when he had to relieve the injured Greene against Tech. (Greene, you’ll recall, had to come back in to save the game.)
Once the job was his, however, Shockley relaxed and became the superb quarterback Richt had always thought he could be.
Perhaps that will be the case with Murray, too. Which makes me think it might be better if Richt and Mike Bobo go ahead and make Murray a clear-cut No. 1 on the suddenly tiny QB depth chart as soon as possible, rather than let the battle go on deep into August. So he can get that monkey off his back and settle down.
The spotlight is on Murray now. Keep your fingers crossed he’s able to handle it.