GEORGIA FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK
ATHENS — If all goes as Hutson Mason hopes, he won’t play Saturday against Buffalo. If he gets his way, he won’t play all season.
That may seem like an odd aspiration for a backup quarterback at an SEC school, but it makes perfect sense to Mason, a junior quarterback from Marietta.
Mason is the Bulldogs’ clear No. 2 quarterback behind three-year starter Aaron Murray. But the Lassiter High graduate hopes to redshirt this season in order to put a year of eligibility between him and Murray. That way he will have at least a year to possibly run the offense as the starter after Murray graduates.
“I never really pictured it to go this way,” said Mason, who set the Georgia high school record for passing yards (4,560) and touchdown passes (54) as a senior. “It’s so funky and there are so many what-ifs.”
The main what-if is Murray. Mason has backed up Murray the past two seasons and has been very impressive in doing so, completing 27 of 47 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. But Mason has had few snaps in meaningful games. Almost all of his work has come in mop-up duty late in blowouts.
Much of that is a testament to Murray’s durability. Mason has called his good buddy “Superman” because he never gets hurt. Mason hopes that if he gets a year between him and Murray, he could lead the Bulldogs in some marquee games.
“I’ve never hoped Aaron gets hurt,” Mason said. “I love Aaron. I’m knocking on wood hoping Aaron lights it up and stays healthy.
“But it’s basically the same thing for me this year. Coaches have told me that I’m the No. 2 guy, and if Murray goes down I’m going to go in. But then you’d have to figure out how long he might be out for and that kind of thing. So I’m just treating it the exact same way and preparing the same way I did last year. I’m hoping I don’t play but, at the same time, I’ve got to get ready.”
That’s what Georgia’s coaches are saying. Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo has made it clear that Mason is his second-best guy and, half-jokingly, refuses to acknowledge that redshirting is an option for him.
Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Christian LeMay is available to take snaps in a blowout scenario such as the Bulldogs could have Saturday against Buffalo. But he apparently is not quite ready to jump into the firestorm that is SEC play.
Coach Mark Richt wasn’t even guaranteeing snaps for LeMay on Saturday. “Our plan is to line up with Aaron and try to win the game,” he said. “We don’t have a plan like with D.J. [Shockley] back in the day where we knew he was going to play in the first half. We’ll just see how the game goes and sub if possible.”
Dantzler OK as gap-filler
Line coaches often refer to plays such as Watts Dantzler as “puddy” or “caulk.” It’s meant to be a compliment, as in “you can plug him into any gap and he’ll fill in.”
That’s the role that has befallen the hulking sophomore heading into the season. Though he began preseason camp No. 1 at right tackle, he ended it as No. 2 at as many as four positions. Center is the only position at which he hasn’t taken snaps in August.
“I actually took some snaps at center this summer,” said Dantzler, a 6-foot-7, 320-pound sophomore from Dalton. “If they wanted me to I would do that but I don’t think Boss would like it. Other than that I’ve played just about every position. And I think it’s helped me. I’m very confident in the playbook and the calls.”
Dantzler was beaten out at right tackle by freshman John Theus, a five-star signee who has been impressive since the outset. After that Dantzler began to get a lot of work at right tackle. In last half of camp he started to work at left tackle and guard.
“It’s difficult switching positions., especially having to switch stances on the left side,” Dantzler said. “But I think I’m versatile and know what to do at any given position. So I think that helps out.”
Dantzler said he was disappointed to not win the job at right tackle, but said Theus deserves to start.
“I have a lot of things I’ve got to work; I’ve got to get better, definitely,” he said. “I’m happy for the ones. I think we’ve got a great offensive line. The starting five is really good and I think me and Austin [Long] are both definitely ready to step in and contribute when our time is called.”
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs completed their 26th practice of the preseason on Wednesday with a 90-minute practice in jerseys, shorts and helmets Wednesday.
“We’re ready to go,” Richt said. “Let’s play some football. We’re about done, we’ve got one more day of practice.”
Thursday the Bulldogs will have a brief non-contact practice walk-through Saturday’s game plan.
Asked what positions most intrigued him to see in action Saturday, Richt said “punters and kickers.” Also, “it’ll be fun to watch our backs.” … Tight end Jay Rome remained “limited” in Georgia’s practice Wednesday with a hamstring strain and is questionable for Saturday’s game. … Nose guard Kwame Geathers (shoulder bruise) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (neck sprain) returned to practice and will be able to play Saturday.