By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Georgia had 10 offensive starters returning from last season, but the one hole it was trying to fill was a gaping one: quarterback.
Not that last year’s starter, Joe Cox, was an all-star, and he had the unenviable task of replacing Matthew Stafford. But at least Cox was a senior.
This year, the new QB is Aaron Murray, a redshirt freshman. Coach Mark Richt didn’t name him the starter until after spring drills, and only then after Zach Mettenberger was dismissed from the team for violating team rules.
So far, Murray is fitting right in. He’s completed 62.2 percent of his passes for 605 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. His 143.3 passer efficiency rating ranks sixth in the SEC.
None of this surprises MSU coach Dan Mullen, who recruited Murray when he was Florida’s offensive coordinator.
“Watching him develop, you see a lot of talent, very, very strong arm, has the ability to improvise, get out of trouble, make a play with his legs, saw him the fourth quarter settle down and make some plays,” Mullen said. “That’s the sign of a quarterback growing up and a sign of maturity.”
Mullen, whose Bulldogs host Murray’s Bulldogs on Saturday, was speaking of the fourth quarter of Georgia’s game against Arkansas last week. Murray led two touchdown drives to erase a 14-point deficit before Arkansas, behind Ryan Mallett’s arm, pulled out a 31-24 victory in Athens.
On the final play of the game, Georgia had the ball at its own 35-yard line, and Murray launched a missile into the end zone that one of his receivers nearly hauled in.
Beyond his physical skills, Murray has established himself as a leader.
“This summer when it became evident he was going to be the starter, his leadership really began then,” Richt said. “The guys saw him work in the weights and the film room. There’s a high level of respect for him, which is a big part of leadership.”
Murray recognizes he has plenty to work on.
“I’m continuing to work on accuracy, continuing to work on going through my progressions,” he said. “Like Coach Richt and I talked about this week, going through my progressions and taking over if there’s no one open or throw the ball away, just be better at footwork in the pocket.”
n Mullen is still trying to develop his receivers into total players. Two weeks ago, they had problems catching the ball but blocked well. Last week, they caught the ball but the blocking “fell apart,” Mullen said.
He added, “When you go put the focus on one thing, you watch, the next thing will take a little bit of a step back with young players, because they don’t have that maturity and that foundation yet to be the total player.”
n Senior K.J. Wright is settling into his new role at weakside linebacker. He made 12 tackles against LSU, and the former strongside linebacker leads MSU with 23 stops.
“I’m real comfortable,” he said. “It’s a real opportunity to make a lot of plays for the defense.”