Hutson Mason had a great weekend.
On Saturday, he graduated from Lassiter High School. On Sunday, he and a buddy were the honored guests at a pool party. On Sunday night, he studied his UGA playbook.
Well, there was nothing special about that last one.
The Georgia quarterback signee has been studying the Bulldogs’ playbook five days a week since national signing day. And he plans a continuous cram session until he reports to the UGA campus a week from today.
“Just like anything else, I’ve found the more I put my nose in it, the more I take time to study it, the more sense it makes to me,” said Mason, speaking from his Marietta home Sunday night. “A lot of people are asking me, ‘can you learn the playbook?’ I think I’m going to have a pretty good grasp going in about what’s going on. I’m very pleased with my progress.”
It’s a good thing, seeing how Mason will get to Athens as Georgia’s No. 3 quarterback, maybe No. 2 depending on how much Logan Gray works at wide receiver. Redshirt freshman Aaron Murray enters summer workouts as the No. 1 quarterback.
Now, because of Zach Mettenberger’s dismissal and Gray’s decision to cross-train at receiver, there’s a decent possibility Mason could be asked to play in the opening game.
“It’s nuts to think about really,” who set a state passing record with 4,560 yards and 54 touchdowns as a senior at Lassiter last season. “Not a lot of freshmen have the opportunity to play at all. To think I’m one sprained ankle from maybe going in, words can’t really describe it. It’s what you dream of your whole life.”
Mason’s reaction to his mysterious depth chart ascension has been to pour himself into preparation. He has hit the weight room hard, working some with personal trainers and some on his own at the school. The slender 6-foot-3 quarterback said he has reached his target weight of 195 pounds with the hopes of adding at least 10 more pounds with the Bulldogs this summer.
And most of his nights have ended like this Sunday’s did. That is, with him sitting at the kitchen table, playbook spread out in front of him, a dry-erase board to one side.
He describes the nightly sessions:
“I’ll think of a play, like, ‘R-Flex 322 Running’ or something like that, and I’ll close the playbook and draw it up. Then I’ll open up it back up and see if I got it right. Then I’ll say, ‘OK, the tight end’s on the right side. All right, who do I declare? Who I am responsible for in this protection?’ Just stuff like that. That’s the way I’ve been doing it. Just old-fashioned studying. Sometimes I’ll call Coach [Mike] Bobo and ask him questions. I had some questions last week about this one formation. I talked to him about 10 minutes or so. But mostly it’s just me at the kitchen table.”
Head coach Mark Richt is eager to see what Mason has learned. He has been asked about Mason at every stop on the ongoing Bulldog Clubs tour. But Richt won’t get a chance to watch Mason work in person until early August when the full squad reports for preseason practices.
In the meantime, Mason’s tutelage will be limited to his fellow signalcallers at this summer’s voluntary workouts and some one-on-one sessions with UGA student Jonathan Batson, a former walk-on quarterback who remains in school.
Ideally Richt said they’d like to redshirt a quarterback. Whether they do will have a lot to do with how good Mason looks in that month of work before the season opener against Louisiana-LaFayette.
“I want to see what he can do,” Richt said. “If we don’t think he’s ready, I’d be more apt to have Logan continue to be our No. 2 and just go from there. I don’t want to say because I have no idea how [Mason is] going to perform until he shows up.”
Mason admits that it all can be a bit unnerving at times. To go from a place where you are literally praying for a scholarship offer to one where you are being counted on by the state university and its massive fan base can be overwhelming and a bit intimidating. But Mason said that is what motives him.
“I’ve been working hard at it,” he said. “I’m just trying to take this opportunity and make sure that, when it’s all said and done, I don’t look back and say, ‘if I would have put more time into it, if I would’ve worked just a little bit harder, maybe I would have been more successful.’ There’s no way I could live with myself if I wasn’t completely dedicated to it. I love what I do and I love this opportunity. Just to be able to go in there and compete, that wasn’t the situation a month ago. A lot of doors have opened up and I have to be ready for my number to be called. I’m extremely thrilled about the whole opportunity.”