Just got around this weekend to transcribing full interviews with the three quarterbacks who this spring will battle for Georgia’s starting job.
Re-listening to the interviews, which Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray did a few days ago with the beat writers who cover the Dogs, underscored how interesting and important spring practice will be.
I’ve already quoted a few remarks from the interviews, but I’ll post full transcripts here.
Let’s begin with Murray, who was rated the nation’s No. 3 quarterback prospect as a senior at Tampa’s Plant High School and was redshirted as a UGA freshman last season.
So what’s your view of the quarterback competition?
Murray: I view it as, it’s pretty much anyone’s job to take right now. I’m looking forward to this spring. . . . It’s my goal to get that position. I’m going to work as hard as I can and try to work as hard as the other guys, but I know they’re going to be going out there too aiming for that job. It should be fun. It’s going to be interesting. Off the field, we’re not enemies. We hang out; we go out together, go out to eat; you can see us in each other’s rooms hanging out. I mean, it’s not something where we go out there [on the practice field] in hatred, we’re just going out there to win a position. We’re going to be cheering each other on and supporting each other. Two days ago, Zach [Mettenberger] and I went and threw with Marlon [Brown]. We’re helping each other with footwork. And if we have a bad throw, we’re helping each other out with mechanics and stuff like that. So it’s not going to be, you know, go out there and cut each other’s throat off or anything like that. It’s going to be . . . nice friendly competition, and in the end the best guy is going to play.
How different is your mindset this year than last year [when the starting job was generally conceded to be Joe Cox's]?
Murray: When I first came in, I was still fighting for that job. That was my goal. I wanted to play last year. I wanted to come in there and learn everything as fast as I could and hopefully that translates on the field. But obviously that didn’t happen. I feel as a competitor you always want to play no matter what. Even if you think you’re going to redshirt, or maybe everyone says you’re not prepared and the best thing is for you to redshirt, as a competitor you want to play. I wanted to start last year. I have that same mindset right now. This year, I’m a lot more knowledgeable of the game, about defenses, about playbooks, about things like that, so this time I think I’m better equipped to start.
Can you give us a clear picture of what was wrong with your arm last fall [when you were sidelined for a long stretch in practice]?
Murray: It was triceps and forearm tendinitis that I just tried to push through. And then it inflamed up and spread throughout the arm. I didn’t give it the proper rest I should have. If I had, I probably would have been out a week instead of going four-five weeks [without throwing]. . . . I learned from that. This offseason, I’m doing a lot more shoulder maintenance . . . making my arm strong [and] building the endurance so I’ll be properly ready for this season and it doesn’t happen again. I’ve thrown a good amount this year, and it hasn’t bothered me at all. My arm is actually a lot stronger.
You’ve had tests to rule out any other arm or shoulder problems?
Murray: Yeah. X-rays, anything with the bone, stress fracture -– it was nothing like that. Just good old tendinitis. Once I was done with it, I felt good. It didn’t bother me the rest of season, and in bowl practice it felt fine. . . . My arm is actually feeling a lot stronger, doing all the rehab and shoulder maintenance stuff.
How much do you think the injury set back your development?
Murray: I think it set me back a good bit. . . . Just the [missed] practice experience, playing 7-on-7 and doing 11-on-11, which is pretty much the biggest help for me being a young quarterback. And I wasn’t able to do that for three or four weeks, so I definitely took a step back in that category, just not being able to get the on-field action, the live speed of the game. That definitely didn’t help, but Coach [Mike] Bobo did a good job at the end of the season and in bowl practice giving us young quarterbacks a lot more reps and getting out there [to] somewhat prepare for this season.
What did you learn from Joe Cox in terms of the mental side of being UGA’s starting quarterback and handling criticism?
Murray: A lot. . . . Coach Bobo would put us on the board a lot and make us draw plays. I was always next to Joe because I always had a lot of questions to ask, and he would help me with the defenses. If I drew the defense wrong, he’d help me draw it right. . . . The mental side of the game, he helped me a lot. And I guess I did learn a lot, too, from the criticism he received. Which I didn’t think was very deserving that people got on to him as hard as they did because they don’t understand he worked extremely hard this past season. . . . It takes a lot to be a college quarterback, much less a SEC quarterback, and I learned watching him all the hard work Joe put in. . . . You got to make it your life; you got to be in the film room day in and day out.
How do you like your chances of winning the competition for the starting job?
Murray: It’s going to be a good one. It should be close. So we’ll see. I’m confident. I’m going to go out there every day and work my butt off like I’m the starter. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be an exciting spring. The best guy is going to be the starter, no matter what.
Did Zach [Mettenberger] make strides forward while you were sidelined with tendinitis last fall?
Murray: Zach made huge strides, Logan [Gray] made huge strides, throughout the season. The more reps you get during practice, the more improvement you’re going to make. . . . The more game-like experience you get, the better you can get. Zach, Logan and I would [quarterback] the No. 2 offense; we’d go against the No. 1 defense. And when you go against that kind of speed, you’re getting better. I mean, [whether] you’re completing passes, not completing passes, getting sacked, you’re getting your body used to how fast the game is.
How would you compare your game and Zach’s game?
Murray: Zach is more, [as] everyone always says, the bigger, pocket-type quarterback. I’m not nearly as big as him, and I can somewhat make plays with my feet — not as much as Logan can. I feel it’s pretty much Zach is the big pocket quarterback and I’m the guy who can make some plays on the run and throw the ball a little bit too.
What is the biggest thing you need to do or improve in order to win the starting job?
Murray: Accuracy. . . . Watching the NFL in the postseason and Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, the reason they’re the top guys in the NFL right now is that they’re putting the ball on the money. And watching the Super Bowl, Drew Brees is 32 of 37. He just puts the ball on the money, no matter what. That’s the biggest thing, and I think that’s what [UGA] coaches are looking for too -– what guys are going to make completions? If something is not open downfield, be smart enough to check it down to a running back instead of just trying to launch it downfield to make a play. Just be smart with the ball and try not to force things. Like last year in practice, I would try to force things, thinking I was back in high school and [tight end] Orson Charles used to jump over everyone. But they got some athletes on defense [at this level] that if you try to do that they’re going to make plays.
Whoever wins the quarterback job will join 10 returning starters on offense. . . .
Murray: We have an unbelievable offense for next season. You look at the offensive line; we have, like, seven or eight [players with starting experience]. The skill positions are unbelievable. It’s not going to be all on your shoulders. We have a great running game, two great young running backs. With that offensive line, we should put up some great numbers on the running game. So I really don’t feel that whoever wins the [QB] job is going to really have that much pressure on them because it’s a balanced attack. It’s not going to be like we’re going to go out there and throw the ball 40 times a game. We’re going to be able to hand the ball to our running backs most of the game and let them do the work. And with our great offensive line, I think we can make some big plays in the running game and let us do some play-action. That’s when you’re going to hit A.J. [Green] deep down the field.
How would you handle the media scrutiny that comes with being UGA’s starting quarterback?
Murray: Don’t read the Internet or papers, pretty much. Everyone is going to have their opinion. There’s going to be fans out there booing you or people rooting for Zach or Logan to start with. You just can’t let that affect [you], can’t let that get to my head. I just got to go out there and know every day I’m not competing against them. I’m not competing against the media or the fans. I’m just competing with myself to get better every day. And that’s my ultimate goal — just to continue to strive to become the best quarterback I can be and not worry about all the outside stuff.
Next up: interview with Zach Mettenberger.
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