ATHENS – Get Aaron Murray ready to start at quarterback. Complete the installation of the 3-4 defense. Find out if Trinton Sturdivant is healthy enough to play on the offensive line. Sort out the starters at a couple of unresolved positions in the secondary.
Those are among the items on Georgia’s to-do list for preseason football practice, which begins Monday.
“We’re very anxious to get this thing started, to get ‘em in camp,” coach Mark Richt said.
For Richt, this will be his 10th preseason at Georgia — his first coming off a five-loss season.
Much has happened in Georgia’s football program since the end of last season: three new defensive coaches hired, including coordinator Todd Grantham, and seven players arrested, including three who were subsequently kicked off the team.
Not to mention the DUI arrest and resignation of the athletic director. And AgentGate.
On Monday, the focus shifts — the Bulldogs hope — to preparing for the season.
“It’s kind of a relief in the sense that when you work out, the rest of the world doesn’t exist,” fullback Shaun Chapas said. “It’s our way to get away from things and be with each other and work hard.”
Murray, a redshirt freshman, won the starting quarterback job in spring practice and then had his hold on the position tightened by a surprising sequence of events with his backups. Zach Mettenberger was kicked off the team shortly before pleading guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery, and Logan Gray was granted his request to play wide receiver after briefly considering transferring.
So Georgia enters preseason practice with no mystery, barring injury, about who the quarterback will be. Now there’s just the considerable matter of preparing Murray for the rigors of the SEC.
“We’re going to watch a young kid grow up,” Richt said. “We’ve got to understand he’ll do some things we wish he didn’t do. We’ll try to get him to do those things in practices and scrimmages as much as possible,” rather than in games.
Georgia takes comfort not only in Murray’s talent — he was the nation’s No. 3-rated quarterback prospect coming out of high school — but also in the considerable experience elsewhere on offense.
The Dogs have returning starters at every other offensive position, including five linemen with a combined 127 collegiate starts among them.
“I’d much rather have that kind of maturity around a young quarterback,” Richt said, “than a very veteran quarterback surrounded by a bunch of puppies.”
The offensive line will be further fortified if Sturdivant, who started every game as a freshman in 2007 before missing almost all of the past two seasons with knee injuries, is able to play.
“He’s going to be healthy enough Day 1 [to practice], but we want to go at a good pace,” Richt said. “He may not go the full time. We just want to work him in and make sure to … give him the best chance of again making it to the game.”
On defense, preseason practice will continue the transformation to Grantham’s 3-4 alignment.
“I know defensively there’s a lot of our young men wondering how it’s going to go; we have coaches and fans wondering how it’s going to go,” Richt said. “That’s an exciting thing for us, too. … It’s provided a lot of energy and excitement.”
A couple of position battles in a revamped secondary bear watching. Vance Cuff and Branden Smith are in close competition for the starting job at one cornerback spot (Brandon Boykin returns at the other). And Nick Williams and junior-college transfer Jakar Hamilton will battle to start at strong safety.
So . . . what would you add to the list of things Georgia’s football team needs to accomplish in preseason camp?