This is a tough one. You’re Georgia. You’re halfway into a season that doesn’t figure to get a whole lot better anytime soon. You haven’t yet played Aaron Murray, the highly regarded freshman quarterback. Do you now?
Point: If you do, you cost yourself half a year of Murray’s services. If he plays now, he can at most play 3 1/2 seasons.
Counterpoint: If you don’t, there’s no guarantee Murray plays four full seasons anyway. If he turns out to be really good, he might well leave for the NFL after the 2011 season. (Players can declare for the draft three years out of high school. Doesn’t matter if they redshirt or not. Ask the same Georgia coaches who decided to sit Knowshon Moreno in 2006.)
Point: Almost every other freshman of consequence has played already — Orson Charles, Branden Smith, Rantavious Wooten, Washaun Ealey, Marlon Brown. If you’re going to recruit big-timers, you might as well play them. That’s the Pete Carroll Way.
Counterpoint: Murray isn’t even No. 2 on the depth chart. He’s No. 3 behind Joe Cox and Logan Gray, and Gray has scarcely taken a snap. Doesn’t Georgia have to see if Gray, himself only a redshirt sophomore, is its quarterback of the future before it decides Murray is the quarterback of the future?
Point: Gray seems more a running quarterback. Georgia really hasn’t had a running quarterback since James Jackson in the mid-’80s. And Georgia doesn’t run the spread. Murray, who’s a better passer, would appear the better long-term fit.
Counterpoint: Do you really want to throw a true freshman into the fray when the offense is already circling the drain?
Point: Cox is a fifth-year senior. He won’t be here next season. And Georgia would have to upset Florida or Georgia Tech to finish 8-4 this season.
Counterpoint: Georgia was 4-4 in 2006 facing games against ranked opponents Auburn and Tech. It beat both, beat Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and lit the fuse for an 11-2 season in 2007.
Clincher: Even as it was struggling in 2006, Georgia had already committed to going with true freshman Matthew Stafford. He suffered some reversals — in the loss at Kentucky, he threw interceptions from the Georgia 2-yard-line and the Kentucky 1 on consecutive series — but he learned.
Conclusion: I wouldn’t start Murray ahead of Joe Cox, but I’d bump him above Gray and give him some snaps. Murray is the future. With one more loss, the future officially begins.