MACON — Kris Durham started his Georgia football career with Matthew Stafford and will end it with Aaron Murray.
Durham graduated early from high school and enrolled at UGA in January 2006, along with the fellow freshman Stafford. Fast forward to June 2010. Stafford is a multi-millionaire NFL quarterback, and Durham is the grizzled veteran of the Bulldogs.
The wide receiver from Calhoun received his bachelor’s degree last month. “That was probably one of the highlights of my life, getting that degree,” he said. This week he began graduate school, starting work toward a master’s degree in education. He wants to teach and coach. But first, he has one season of football eligibility remaining because he was redshirted last fall while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
Durham represented UGA’s offense at the “Pigskin Preview” event at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon on Tuesday, and the fifth-year senior exuded enthusiasm each time someone mentioned Murray, the redshirt freshman quarterback.
“Aaron is a special guy,” Durham said. “He’s very, very intelligent. He’s going to bring a new energy. I’m excited to see what he does. He’s a fiery competitor. I just can’t wait to see what he does.
“He gets in there and studies and knows what he’s supposed to do. And he’s a great leader. I mean, you don’t usually see that in a freshman, but he’s definitely taken his leadership role as the quarterback of the team.”
Given the attrition at the position –- Zach Mettenberger’s dismissal and Logan Gray’s quasi-move to wide receiver –- the Bulldogs are banking on Murray. Coach Mark Richt mentioned Tuesday that spending this summer with the responsibilities of being the No. 1 quarterback should allow Murray a smoother transition than the true freshman Stafford was afforded in 2006.
“Along the way, there are going to be bumps in the road, [but] hopefully we can minimize those,” Richt said. “The fact [Murray] is surrounded by a lot of veteran players on offense should help.
“If he doesn’t try to be a hero and he just manages the game well and does the things we’re asking him to do and minimizes any play that starts out poorly and respects the football –- if he does those things, I think we’ll be fine,” Richt said. “If we can get him started on the right foot and gaining some confidence, we’ll let him grow in increments. But the worst thing we could do is just throw so much on him that he’s drowning. You don’t want to set him back.”
Murray, as you know, has never thrown a pass in a collegiate game. But with starters returning at the other 10 positions on offense, Durham envisions Murray leading a balanced unit.
“I feel like the run game is going to open up the pass game, and the pass game is going to open up the run game,” Durham said. “But it all starts with the offensive line. Since we have such a veteran offensive line, I feel like they’re going to be our rock. . . . We can’t do anything without them. Whatever we do, the offensive line is going to be the key.”
Durham, who at 22 is three years older than his quarterback, says the Bulldogs are fueled by last season’s 8-5 record, their worst under Richt.
“You work and build a foundation and start all over again,” Durham said. “You start from scratch. That’s what we’ve tried to do this offseason.”
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