QB Aaron Murray’s ‘nerdy’ approach helps him net records, wins for Bulldogs

Aaron Murray's record-setting pace of production for Georgia has been as much the result of preparation as it has been inherent talent. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Aaron Murray's record-setting pace of production for Georgia has been as much the result of preparation as it has been inherent talent. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS — Georgia’s Aaron Murray is the proverbial big man on campus. Coeds fawn when he walks past the bus stop. TV broadcasters and opposing coaches wax eloquent about his athletic ability and uncanny decision-making skills. Sanford Stadium is dotted every Saturday with little boys wearing No. 11 jerseys and dreaming of growing up to be like him.

But that’s not the way his teammates think of him.

“He’s a nerd,” said wide receiver Tavarres King, one of Murray’s closer friends. “He’s always studying, and he already knows so much. It’s hard to even talk to him outside of football because it’s always going to get back to football, whatever we’re talking about.”

Said wideout Michael Bennett: “He’s got some weird study habits when it comes to quarterback. He’s in here [at the football complex] all the time. He spends a weird amount of hours in here. … Sundays he’s in here real early. Saturdays he comes back here right after a game. He’s here five or six hours a day. It’s all football with him.”

Sure, Murray is physically gifted. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound quarterback is faster than most think, bigger and stronger than generally given credit for and in possession of a throwing arm that’s starting to give NFL scouts cause for pause.

But that’s not what has made him into the record-setting passer he has become for the Bulldogs. That, those around him contend, is a result of his bookish approach to the position.

“Aaron just prepares really like no one we’ve had,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who has had David Greene, the quarterback with the most wins in NCAA history when he left, and Matthew Stafford, an NFL No. 1 draft pick, among his quarterbacks. “And we’ve had guys that work hard. All of our guys work hard at preparing, but Murray just takes it to another level in how he prepares for the game.”

An exceptional student, Murray has found a way to take an academic approach to football. The fourth-year junior already holds an undergraduate degree in psychology. Now he’s well into his graduate studies in industrial-organizational psychology. It’s actually a doctoral program in which students can get a master’s degree along the way.

Murray has found a way to use his field of study to help him on the field of play. His first step was to write a paper on the leadership qualities of successful NFL quarterbacks. Murray studied quarterbacks such as Drew Brees of the Saints and Tom Brady of the Patriots and looked for similarities in their leadership qualities and styles of play.

This summer he took that project a step further. He fashioned the information he had gathered into a long and detailed survey. He distributed them to the entire team, coaches included.

“I wanted to assess my leadership skills and just figure out ways in which I could improve different aspects of my leadership,” Murray said. “One of my main goals coming into the season was to become the best leader I could be. So I got some great feedback.”

Murray figures 60 to 70 players returned the surveys. Some of them weren’t sure what to make of it.

“I was like, ‘why do we have to fill this out, man? I don’t want to do this,’” Bennett said with a laugh. “I think everybody on the team was thinking that.”

Said Richt: “I thought it took a little bravery to do that, to hear what your peers have to say, to hear what your coaches have to say. He was looking for a gut-level answer and he had to be willing to do something about it. I thought it was good.”

So what did Murray learn?

“The majority [of the feedback] was actually very good,” he said. “I think the one area that was lowest was me getting onto the guys more. Not being so nice, basically. So that was one improvement I needed to make. Sometimes you’ve got to get tough as a leader and make sure guys are focused and doing the right thing.”

Hard to argue with the production Georgia is getting out of Murray this season. He enters Saturday’s game against Tennessee ranked eighth in the nation in pass efficiency (182.43) and tops in the country among quarterbacks with 100 or more attempts in yards per attempt (10.5) and yards per completion (15.83).

Murray already has passed for 1,092 yards and 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions. More important, he is directing an offense that leads the SEC in points (47.5 pg) and total yards (530 pg).

It’s unclear whether it’s the result of leadership surveys, hours in the film room or just the plain and simple fact that he will start his 32nd game as Georgia’s quarterback Saturday. More than likely it’s a combination of it all.

“Aaron has always done a great job of preparing himself and recognizing what’s going on,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said. “He’s just kind of taken it to another level.”

It’s not like Murray had been dogging it. He established a school record with 35 touchdowns passes last season. Heading into Saturday’s game he needs just four more to surpass Greene’s record of 72 career TD passes.

“It took me four years to do that,” said Greene, who graduated in 2005, and now lives in Grayson and runs a corporate insurance business. “To do what he’s done over the three-year period has been phenomenal. He’s special. He’s doing something that’s never been done at the University of Georgia. We’ve been fortunate to have Aaron Murray.”

Yes, being a nerd can be cool.

181 comments Add your comment

astrouga

September 25th, 2012
7:06 pm

Nice one Chip.

astrouga

September 25th, 2012
7:06 pm

Ghost of Erk

September 25th, 2012
7:07 pm

Glad to have him on our side. GATA on Saturday, Aaron!

Maconbulldog

September 25th, 2012
7:13 pm

I bet another certain Nerd team would love to have him

Cornelius Washington's Neck Brace

September 25th, 2012
7:16 pm

We are getting spoiled with his tremendous play this season…..so efficient, sharp, and crisp……decision making has been excellent……he makes it look easy.

godawg

September 25th, 2012
7:32 pm

The Doctor is IN

Randall "Pink" Floyd

September 25th, 2012
7:43 pm

We’ll take him. Tennessee, you’re next!

NC_Dawg

September 25th, 2012
7:47 pm

Great article Chip. I have been critical of Murray in the past. He has a tendency to overthrow his recievers and has not played well in big games. Then he came out Saturday and had the game of his career. One of the best performances I’ve seen out of a UGA team since the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii. Good to see that his hard work and dedication to becoming a better player and leader are paying off.

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 25th, 2012
7:54 pm

But the biggest key is UGA is finally establishing a consistant, at times dominant running game. That allows Murray to make easier reads at the line and sets up easy completions. Easy completions lead to confidence, which leads to big plays and wins.

Watch him run,
Watch him scurry,
Touchdown!
Touchdown!
Aaron Murray

Thank God for Reggie Ball

September 25th, 2012
7:55 pm

We need to hire Aaron as the OC after he graduates. He’s a 10x better play-caller than Bobo

AugustaDawg

September 25th, 2012
8:09 pm

Take care of business this year and he’ll become a legend. Get those SEC and National title rings. Great D, great running backs, opening up the playbook etc…talent is there. Hard work will pay off! GATA

Frank Lane

September 25th, 2012
8:13 pm

Good article. Always good to hear about the team leaders rather than the trouble makers.

slydog

September 25th, 2012
8:51 pm

Well, his ‘nerdy’ approach needs to help him beat a ‘good’ team or at least a ranked opponent. And don’t hate on my comment; you all know it’s true.

slydog

September 25th, 2012
8:58 pm

NC_Dawg
September 25th, 2012
7:47 pm

“Great article Chip. I have been critical of Murray in the past. He has a tendency to overthrow his recievers and has not played well in big games. Then he came out Saturday and had the game of his career….”

Dam Dawg, it was only Vanderbilt….lol. His defining moment for me will be against South Carolina, Florida, and the SEC championship game. I’m not asking him to help win them all, but to at least duplicate what David Greene accomplished before we all lose our minds and proclaim him the best QB in Georgia football history. It’s easy to accumulate numbers when one starts as a freshman. Just my thoughts.

slydog

September 25th, 2012
9:00 pm

Here’s another food for thought: Would we even be having this conversation if Mettenberger didn’t lie about grabbing a female?

wkmorris

September 25th, 2012
9:02 pm

Still can’t believe UGA spent a year starting Joe Cox with this guy on the beach

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:11 pm

Really? Really? Slydog, for one, vandy’s margin of loss per SEC opponent until this game over the last five was only a little over four points. They play tough, secondly, wkmorris, that is a very foolish statement. You have no idea how developed Murray was his freshman year. You NEVER put a freshman out on the field in the QB position unless you ABSOLUTELY have too! I doubt very seriously that he was near ready for SEC competition out of high school. Does anyone remember Staffords first year here? It was horrible! He looked like an orphan on the street! He had NO clue how to read the defenses and it showed. Murray has been brought up for success. His hard work has paid off, and I really don’t think any of you can say that you saw the practices which determined whether he was going to redshirt.

BigDawg

September 25th, 2012
9:12 pm

Murray is a DGD and rallies those around him for greater things. Too bad IC didn’t buy in, but very happy with our amazing rotation of DEDICATED running backs. All the players seem to realize what could be!!

Poopdawg

September 25th, 2012
9:13 pm

Joe Cox was and always will be a DGD. I love murray’s effort but I still need to see more than one complete game from him. Now I feell just as strong about Murray being a DGD, but have not seen that much improvement from game one till now. GO DAWGS !

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
9:17 pm

Bench Murray and fire CMR and Bobo…….give em all the hook!!!!
Just kidding, I wanted to feel for a minute like one of those incompetent, idiotic trolls!!!
Dang I feel stupid…….must be how they feel all the time!!!

foxdog

September 25th, 2012
9:19 pm

@slydog, you are, in fact, actually just a jackass. As Greene said, it took him four years to set the number that Murray’s going to best in two and a half. According to Richt’s statement at the time, yes, we’d be having the conversation because Murray was the starter over Mett. The G-Day geniuses who saw Mett throw a handful of completions better than Murray are obviously qualified to evaluate talent moreso than Richt and Bobo. In addition, Mett’s 4 TDs and 2 INTs through four games doesn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Did I miss something whereby adjectives these days require quotation marks? When Murray beats all of those teams that qualify as ‘good’ in your esteemed estimation, I would like you to publicly recant and admit that you’re a ‘dumb’ ass.

Brainiac (CMR/UGA Fan For Life/J.Jones for Heisman))

September 25th, 2012
9:22 pm

@ Slydawg:

Damn son. It’s only Vandy!!!!!!!!!!

Why that powerhouse in Columbia(aka USCe and ranked No. 7 in the Nation) just ran all over Vandy!!!

Stomped hell out of Vandy by a 20-17 score while the best UGA could do was edge
Vandy 48 – 3.

Slydawg = Shydawg = Shy a little gray matter = Mr. Positive = Shy a few bricks of a load = Nutcase

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:25 pm

@ foxdog, it’s amazing how many people think they know best just by looking at a few games. The coaching staff has hours, days, months, maybe even years in some cases of practices and film on these players but these fools know soooooo much more than they do. It’s a joke. Murray has improved dramatically from day one. His footwork has improved, his reads have improved, his armstrength has improved, his accuracy has improved…if it hadn’t, he wouldn’t be on the verge of setting these records! Murray is one of the greatest qb’s to play at UGA, if you don’t believe me, look at the stats. I hope he can get a ring or two before he goes, because HE deserves it for his work, and it will get these idiot trolls off of his back. GO DAWGS!

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
9:26 pm

@Slydog,
So according to you and other “Murray bashers” it is his fault we haven’t beaten a ranked team? If that is the case then if we win a NC then Murray gets full credit, no one else….absolutely no one else!!!! The bashers are totally out of touch with reality. Murray is an important part of the equation, but for example he didn’t drop the 2 perfect TD passes in the 1st half against LSU and he was not on the punting team in that game that allowed the 2 huge 1st half returns. Same comments can be said for the SC game last year. It is a team sport so quit blaming Murray for not winning the big games……it is the team who failed to win those games.

Brainiac (CMR/UGA Fan For Life/J.Jones for Heisman))

September 25th, 2012
9:27 pm

@ Foxdawg:

Excellent post but would you PLEASE apologize to Jackasses everywhere???????????

How would you like it if someone compared you to Slydawg???

Slydawg knows less about more than my 5 year-old grandson!!!!!!!!!!!

Cracka Dawg

September 25th, 2012
9:29 pm

Murray still hasn’t beat a ranked opponent…… I may add

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:29 pm

Thank you Neutral! people forget it takes all three phases to win. Dawgs have been shy in the special teams department, we have improved, but I for one would like to see a bit more consistancy…but what can you expect from Freshmen. Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad ie: 49 yard field goal good, but 2 missed extra points. They will get better as the year goes on.

Brainiac (CMR/UGA Fan For Life/J.Jones for Heisman))

September 25th, 2012
9:30 pm

Many thanks to all you DGD that put Slydawg in his place(aka The dog pound)

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
9:32 pm

@Brain,
Make that SC…..6th ranked, but who’s counting?!?! Good points…..Mr. Slydog is one of those negative trolls I was alluding to. He is totally out of touch.

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:32 pm

No, again cracka dawg, those losses can’t be fully loaded on Murray. He made some mistakes, but he didn’t loose them. He puts us in position to win most every week, which is all you can ask for. It takes the team to win, and the team to loose.

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:39 pm

Congrats to Freddie Freeman on his bottom of the 9th 2 run HR to send ATL to the playoffs! GO BRAVES!

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
9:42 pm

Hey guys, Archie Manning never beat a ranked team, but Norm VanBrocklin, Don Shula and Vince Lombardi all said he may be the best to ever play the game. P.S. His offspring aren’t doing too bad either
So was it Archie’s fault he never won the big game? No, he played for Ole Miss and the New Orleans Aints…..that’s the reason dudes. It is a team sport and this year Murray has a great team around him so look out!

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:45 pm

Wow, I didn’t know Archie Manning never won against a ranked team. No one can talk smack about that guy! What an ATHLETE!

Bitter QB

September 25th, 2012
9:45 pm

where’s my budy –TURNOVER MURPHY–??????????????

——come out come out were ever you are——–blahahahahahah

============go dawgs———-

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
9:46 pm

Alright….go Braves! Fun way to win the big game.

Brainiac (CMR/UGA Fan For Life/J.Jones for Heisman))

September 25th, 2012
9:49 pm

@ Slydawg:

David Greene started as a true freshman and in 4 full seasons, plus several playoff/Bowl games, and set the UGA record for TD passes!!!!!!!!!!!

Murray started as a redshirt freshman and likely will pass Greene in less than 3 full seasons!!!!

Murray’s passing carried UGA for the past 2 seasons because the ground game was non-existant those 2 years. Especially last year. The best news Dawgnation could receive is that Murray will be back for his senior year. Otherwise we will be hurting at QB next year!!!!!!!!!!

Hairy Dawg

September 25th, 2012
9:51 pm

It’s a hell of a lot easier to live in the film room and think football 24/7 when you’ve already got your undergrad.

Matt in ATL

September 25th, 2012
9:52 pm

To add myself to those degraded, i thought sly dog made some points. The big boy competition begins with TN, moves in an extreme upgrade to SC, drops down in a major way before spiking with UF. Aaron’s season will be defined in those big games. ’nuff said.

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
9:53 pm

Good point Hairy Dawg! Congrats to Murray for being a STUDENT ATHLETE! Not just an athlete. DGD!

Brainiac (CMR/UGA Fan For Life/J.Jones for Heisman))

September 25th, 2012
9:54 pm

@ UGA 5-0:

Archie’s sons Payton and Eli never won a National Championship but they both have made huge impacts in the NFL. Also history will note that Payton was one of the best QBs to ever play the game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
9:58 pm

I saw Archie nearly beat a great Bama team in Tuscaloosa around 1967 (give or take a year). I think the Bama QB was Steve Sloan or Kenny Stabler …..and Bama was ranked #1. Manning set 7-8 records for a QB including close to 200 yards rushing and approximately 300+ yards passing. It was an incredible game, but Ole Miss lost by a close score….something like 42-39. Based on stupid blogger logic…..I guess it was all Archie’s fault!!! It is a team sport guys…Murray can’t win it by himself.

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
10:00 pm

I knew that, it was Tee Martin who claims Tenn’s national title…yeah…thats right…go ahead and say it… who? Point is, you are right, its the team as a whole. This team has a great chance to be very special. Here is a good one for you. Dan Marino… never won a superbowl. Tell me that guy was a bad qb and I’ll just let everyone else call you an idiot. lol
You know they have Archie’s old number as a speed limit on the Ole Miss campus?

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
10:01 pm

LOL! Maybe some of these trolls should read this history, give them an education gentlemen!

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
10:04 pm

I agree Brainiac. I understand the best of Archie’s sons never played college ball due to a major HS injury. Now that’s scary if he was better than Payton and Eli

Matt in ATL

September 25th, 2012
10:07 pm

Big boy pants on come on now. TN and SC in successive weeks. If the Dawgs come out conclusive, I will rightly name them the number one team in the lan

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
10:08 pm

That whole family is just full of Hall of Fame. I don’t know a better way of putting that.

Neutral

September 25th, 2012
10:12 pm

Maybe years from now we can say, “we were there when Murray AND his fellow Dawgs won a NC”. That would be incredible….and possible. Interesting that UGa had a good steady QB like Murray when we won the NC in ‘80. Buck Belue wasn’t flashy and spectacular like a Manning, but he got the job done…..and he had a cool name too!!!

UGA 5-0

September 25th, 2012
10:13 pm

Buck was a GREAT QB for UGA, but I bet you my last paycheck that most UGA fans don’t know that he only completed one pass against ND in that title game, and that was for 11 yards in the fourth quarter. TEAM SPORT!

aarh

September 25th, 2012
10:26 pm

Murray had an injury the yr. that Cox had the job. Cox’s numbers weren’t all the bad. I believe he actually almost got to Stafford’s TD record that Murray ended up breaking, & was actually on pace to do so, but they didn’t throw the ball as much going down the stretch. He did have a lot of interceptions. I just don’t believe that Ints are always the QBs fault though, but it can also sometimes be a result of how the rest of the team plays as well. You should keep in mind that Cox didn’t have hardly any experience coming into that yr. either. I definitely feel that he would’ve been much better if he would’ve had another yr. or so to improve, but QBs don’t always have that luxury. There are many QBs that struggle one yr., but then they light it up the next.

Huh?

September 25th, 2012
10:42 pm

We will see what Murray really has after TN, FL and SC. Those are the games that matter. Looking good against Vandy is one thing….looking good against some tougher SEC scholls might be a different matter. The jury is still out.