OK, on to the second in the series of interviews with the quarterbacks who’ll be battling this spring for Georgia’s starting job. . . .
The three candidates — Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray -– spent some time last week chatting with the beat writers who cover the Dogs. Re-listening to those sessions as I transcribed them over the weekend underscored for me how interesting and important spring practice will be. (By the way, spring practice starts March 4 and ends with the G-Day Game on April 10.)
I posted a full transcript yesterday of the interview with Murray — if you missed it, please look for it here — and later today I’ll post the interview with Gray. For now, here’s the interview with Mettenberger, a strong-armed 6-foot-5 passer from Oconee County who (like Murray) was invited to the prestigious Elite 11 quarterbacks camp in high school and who (like Murray) was redshirted as a UGA freshman last season.
So what is your view of the quarterback competition?
Mettenberger: Ultimately it’s up to Coach [Mike] Bobo. But all three of us are going in saying we’re going to work as hard as we can and whatever he decides after spring, we’re just going to go with it.
How much do you think you’ve improved since your first day on campus?
Mettenberger: I think 10 times better than when I came in. My body is starting to mature. I’ve changed a lot. I’ve lost a couple of pounds. I’m working really hard. I’m doing everything Coach Bobo has asked of me. We’ll see how spring practice goes. We’ll see on the field how I’ve done.
What’s your weight now?
Mettenberger: 237. When I first came in, I was like 255.
How would you describe your mindset, your emotions, about the competition for the starting job?
Mettenberger: It’s definitely a big spring for us three quarterbacks. It’s pretty much going to determine who’s going to be the quarterback for possibly the next couple of years. We’re all really excited about the competition, and we’re all pushing each other to do the best we can. And whatever happens happens. We’re still going to be friends at the end.
Do you look at it as completely even among the three of you going into spring?
Mettenberger: I think in everyone’s opinion, Coach Bobo and us three, we’re all tied right now. Logan [Gray] is probably No. 1 going in, the first couple of days, just because he’s older and has been there longer. I don’t really know what to expect; I just know all three of us are going to go in and work as hard as we can.
Do you feel more confident than last summer?
Mettenberger: It’s night and day to where I was. I mean, I came in and worked my tail off. I’ve never been a slacker by any means. But I’m starting to mature and finally getting a knack of the offense and getting time with the receivers and just picking up the game speed of college football in the SEC. Right now I feel great. But I won’t really know until spring ball comes and we put the pads on.
What do you think will be the most important criteria in determining who wins the starting job?
Mettenberger: I think there are two. I think it’s overall leadership — who the guys can gravitate towards and really follow, someone who can lead us to the promised land and take us to a national title. And also knowing as much of the playbook as we can and trying to be as smart as Coach Bobo with the playbook because you want to be like Peyton Manning out there just making audibles and just know[ing] everything that’s going on around you.
How do you and Aaron help each other?
Mettenberger: We knew each other from camping with each other at Elite 11. . . . Aaron’s a great guy and a great friend, and if I need help I can trust him to help me out. And what we’re going through right now is helping us both a lot. If we were at a school by ourself, we maybe wouldn’t push ourselves as much as having a guy in the same class competing for the same job. Aaron has been a really great thing for me since I’ve been here.
The starting quarterback will step into an offense with the 10 other starters returning.
Mettenberger: Whoever gets the job is definitely stepping into a very experienced offense. . . . The offensive line is finally upper classmen. . . . We got guys like Ben Jones and Clint Boling who know the offense just as well as Coach Searels. For me and Aaron, if we don’t know something, a guy like Ben or Clint can tell us. . . . To have those mature guys around us really helps out a lot.
Are you a more accurate passer than you were last summer, when some of your scrimmage statistics didn’t look too good?
Mettenberger: I’ve never felt like I was an inaccurate passer. People have always said I’m a gunslinger, not accurate, don’t know where ball is going, but I definitely feel like I can throw the ball as good as anybody and as accurate as anybody. It all comes back to my footwork, which … has gotten just as good as the other guys’, if not better. My accuracy in [last year's] G-Day Game and all that other stuff –- you know, some were dropped passes. And a lot of people weren’t there to see it; they just saw the stats; they didn’t get to see all the plays. I’m not going to blame it on dropped passes, but right now I have a grasp on the offense and I know what I’m doing. So it should just be easier for me to play pitch-and-catch with my receivers.
In your mind, do you see yourself as the starter for the season opener?
Mettenberger: Yes sir.
Would you agree that the three candidates for the job all bring a different game to the table?
Mettenberger: Yes sir. You got Logan, who is a super athlete. If quarterback doesn’t work out for him, he can go change to another postion. It’s a little different for me and Aaron both. Aaron is a little more mobile than me, and he might be a little more accurate. But I think my size and how I can throw the ball is definitely something that I have that the other guys don’t. So I’m just going to use what I have to my benefit.
Coming later today: Interview with Logan Gray.
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