ATHENS – Aaron Murray said he knew he wanted to return to Georgia for his senior season “as soon as the clock hit zero” in the SEC Championship game. The rest of the time he spent validating in his head what was already in his heart.
Murray announced via Twitter this past Sunday night that he was indeed going to complete his eligibility with the Bulldogs. On Tuesday he met with reporters at UGA’s Butts-Mehre football complex to explain his decision.
“I pretty much knew all along deep down inside that I wanted to come back,” Murray said. Obviously I didn’t want to base my decision on emotion. I wanted that SEC game to go by a little bit before I made my decision. After that game, I was like, ‘I’m coming back, I’m coming back.’ So I really needed to let that game go, play another game, clear my head and write down the pros and cons of everything.”
Murray, the first quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, is on track to break SEC records for passing yards, touchdowns and completions. But he said that had little to do with his decision.
The opportunity to return to Georgia and win an SEC championship next season was the strongest incentive.
“I’m excited about our team next year,” he said. “We’ve grown so much over these past two seasons and really put Georgia back on the map. It’s great to be part of that and hopefully we’ll continue to get better. . . . I love Georgia, I love being part of this university, I love being part of this team. I’m just excited to have another year.”
The Bulldogs return 10 starters on offense next season, including the entire offensive line. They will be rebuilding on defense, however.
Murray said previously he received a “second- or third-round grade” from the NFL’s draft advisory board. He said he discussed his situation with former NFL coach Tony Dungy, former NFL quarterback Archie Manning, former UGA quarterbacks David Greene and D.J. Shockley, among others.
“I liked what my grade was,” Murray said. “But obviously I feel like I’ve still got a lot of improvement to make as a quarterback. I’ve got some areas that I need to continue to develop. I’ve talked to Coach (Mike) Bobo and Coach (Mark) Richt about it, too, and they’re really excited about me coming back and continuing to improve. . . . By the end of the year, I will be as complete a quarterback as I can be heading into the NFL.”
Of course, not everybody is thrilled with Murray’s decision. Junior Hutson Mason, Murray’s backup before redshirting this past season, was quoted in the Marietta Daily Journal as saying he was “frustrated” about having to sit behind Murray another year. Reached by the AJC Tuesday, Mason was decidedly more diplomatic.
“It hasn’t worked out the way I planned,” he said, “but I’m not giving up on my dreams.”
Asked if he was definitely going to be back at Georgia next season, Mason said, “That’s the plan as of right now.”
Meanwhile, Murray spoke of several areas in which he’d like to improve as a senior. Most notably, becoming more of a dual-threat quarterback.
“I think when I got here I tried to stress so much about being a pocket passer, staying in the pocket and making my reads and my progressions,” Murray said. “There’s nothing wrong with that; I still have to work on that and trust my line. I just need to work more on when things do break down or maybe see ahead of time plays I can take off on and get out of the pocket and get as many yards as I can get. Work on my speed a little more. I feel like at my age I’ve gotten a little slower. I’ve got to work on that more and just try to create plays when they aren’t there.”
Asked specifically what he could do to improve his NFL stock, Murray joked, “Hopefully somehow I can grow another two inches, that’d be great. I think we’re incorporating some yoga this offseason, so some stretching may help out a little bit.”
Murray is listed at 6-foot-1 and swears it’s legitimate.
Turning serious, he added: “I’m not worried about where I get drafted next season. I think you can play a dangerous game if you think about that. My No. 1 goal right now is to continue to get better as a quarterback and do whatever I can to make sure this team gets some championships, gets some rings next year.”
Murray’s desire to win a championship at Georgia was driven home as he watched Alabama throttle Notre Dame 42-14 Monday night to claim its third national championship in four years. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama 32-28 after time expired with Georgia on the 5-yard line.
“Oh, it was painful to watch. It was,” Murray said. “I’m happy the SEC won, of course. It definitely showed the nation how good we were, to play Alabama the way we did and were four or five yards away from being in that game. It helped us showed that Georgia is back.”
And now Murray is, too.