(Updated 9 p.m.)
ATHENS — As fall semester classes began Monday at Georgia, Aaron Murray opened a new chapter in his academic playbook: graduate school.
Georgia’s starting quarterback, who has two seasons of football eligibility remaining, earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in May and was accepted into UGA’s graduate program in industrial-organizational psychology.
“It’s actually a doctorate program,” Murray said. “You get your master’s along the way.”
According to the UGA Department of Psychology website, the graduate program in industrial-organizational psychology “exists to develop, research and apply psychological principles to raise the quality of life for working individuals.”
Said Murray: “It’s a pretty big field nowadays. A lot of companies are hiring I-O psychologists.”
Whether Murray completes a master’s or Ph.D. degree in the foreseeable future might depend on how his other career aspiration unfolds.
He is eligible to enter next year’s NFL draft and has not ruled out that option.
“I’m not going to worry about that [now],” Murray said. “I’m just going to focus on the season, take one game at a time and at the end of the season, I’ll make a decision. Academically, we’ve set a plan for the next two years, what I’m going to do academically and we’ll see what happens.”
If he stays in school, Murray said he “hopefully” can get his master’s in two years and his Ph.D. in an additional two, although, realistically, the NFL figures in there somewhere.
“If I’m blessed to make it to the next level, [great],” Murray said. “If not, I could finish up my doctorate in four years and that would be pretty cool.”
An I-O psychologist, Murray said, “works on things like leadership in organizations, development, relationships between the bosses and the employees … figuring out ways to improve the company in general.”
Murray acknowledged it can be difficult to match the practice schedule of a football player with the academic schedule of a graduate student but said it worked out this semester so that his classes are in the morning three days a week.
Murray, who enrolled at UGA in January 2009, completed his bachelor’s degree in 3 1/2 years. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining because he redshirted in 2009.
‘An honor’ for 7 walk-ons
Georgia coach Mark Richt awarded scholarships for the 2012-13 school year to seven walk-on players over the weekend: fullback Merritt Hall (currently No. 1 on the depth chart at his position), wide receiver Rhett McGowan, tailback Brandon Harton, linebacker Kosta Vavlas and defensive backs Connor Norman, Luis Capella and Blake Sailors.
Harton and Sailors also received scholarships last year. The other five were awarded scholarships for the first time.
Richt announced the scholarships at a team meeting.
“Believe it or not, it’s a bittersweet moment for me,” Richt said Monday, “because as many guys as are getting scholarships, there are a lot that aren’t. And there are a lot of guys deserving. It’s very difficult to narrow it down to the group we narrowed it down to because there are some other young men who are probably just as deserving.
“I even debated if I should do it in a team meeting, because I know as exciting as it is for the guys who get it, it’s kind of heartbreaking for other guys. But when it happens, it is a very positive reaction — the first time I did it in front of the team a few years back, I was just impressed with the team in general and especially the scholarship guys and how excited they were for their teammates to get that honor. And it is an honor to say that you walked on and earned a scholarship somewhere along the way in your career.”
The scholarships were available because of attrition — dismissals and transfers — from the team. Counting former walk-ons, the Bulldogs now have 79 players on scholarship, below the NCAA limit of 85.
No movement on tailback front
Richt said “there’s not a lot of separation” among the top four tailbacks: veterans Ken Malcome and Richard Samuel and freshmen Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley.
“I think they’re all going to get their opportunity to play throughout the year,” Richt said. “Who’s going to be the starter, I don’t know. We’ll be anxious to see all of them, really. I will be.”
Richt described Monday’s practice as “not bad, not great, not good enough probably to become a champion today. I think they’re still trying to get it done, but I thought I saw just a little bit of guys not giving it every little ounce they had today. I wouldn’t say it was the entire team, but there was enough of it going on that it wasn’t really that exciting to me.” … Defensive end Ray Drew was back at practice, albeit in a green (no-contact) jersey, after missing a week because of a concussion. … Freshman tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith was limited by a strained hamstring… . Three cornerbacks were in green jerseys: Malcome Mitchell and Branden Smith because of shoulder contusions and Damien Swann because of a neck sprain. … No surprise, but Richt said he expects offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to work from the booth on game days again this season. … Sounds as if freshman John Theus is going to be the starting right tackle. The No. 1 offensive line “for the great majority of all our practices” has included Theus at right tackle, Richt said, “and I think it’s been good.” … If No. 1 left tackle Kenarious Gates were injured, either Watts Dantzler or Theus likely would move there from the right side, Richt said.