SEC Media Days: Mason's turn at Georgia


Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason, playing for injured senior quarterback Aaron Murray, celebrates the 41-34 double overtime win against Georgia Tech on Nov. 30 last year in Atlanta.

AP
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 12:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 12:57 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — Like any offensive coach who has grown close to his quarterback, it’s been a tough farewell for Georgia coach Mark Richt, saying goodbye to Aaron Murray, one of his all-time favorite QBs.

But, well, that’s just the way it is in college football. As hard as it is sometimes, after three or four years, you’ve got to let the good ones go and move on to the next one. That’s the situation Richt and the Bulldogs are in heading into the 2014 season.

Murray, Georgia’s (and the SEC’s) all-time leading passer, is gone. Now it’s time to hand the ball (and the offense) off to a new quarterback, senior Hutson Mason.

Richt has been around long enough to know how this works.

“Aaron, obviously a great player, a great leader, just a great person,” Richt said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “When you lose a guy like that, it can be tough.

“Not to say we don’t miss Aaron because we do, but it was time for him to go. That’s just college athletics. After four seasons, you’re out of here — we wish him well.”

While Murray, the face of Georgia football the past four years, prepares to begin his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs, the Bulldogs are preparing for life without the popular player.

The offense now belongs to Mason, a fifth-year senior who has patiently waited for his opportunity — and now finally has it.

“The blessing for us is Hutson Mason being in the program going into his fifth season, a guy that got to watch Aaron’s work ethic, to see how he ran the offseason program, how he would organize pass skeleton and those type of things,” Richt said. “Hutson has the respect of his teammates, the confidence of his teammates and coaches.

“I think we’ll transition well.”

Richt said the offense has not changed for a new quarterback. It remains the same scheme that Murray excelled in for the past four years.

“Hutson being there, us knowing Hutson is the guy, the team knowing Hutson is the guy and him being in our system, there’s been no change in our system,” Richt said.

Murray obviously was a great fit in the system, and there’s not a big difference between Murray and Mason, standout wide receiver Chris Conley said.

“Aaron will hate me for saying this, but Hutson is taller (at 6-foot-2). That’s one difference,” Conley said. “But there are not too many differences. Both have tons of experience, they both know the offense to a ‘T.’

“Hutson has a lot of touch on his passes and Aaron has a lot of zip. Hutson is a big guy who anticipates where the ball is going to go. Hutson is definitely a different kind of player, but I don’t think there is any dropoff in his game.”

The Bulldogs already know what their new quarterback can do. Mason started two games in place of the injured Murray at the end of last season. He threw for 299 yards to lead the ’Dogs to a come-from-behind win over Georgia Tech. Then, he threw for 320 yards in UGA’s loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.

Like Murray, Mason was a highly recruited high school star, a Parade All-American from Marietta, Ga. When he arrived in Athens in 2010, Murray was just getting ready to embark on his UGA career as the starter.

Murray went on to become one of the best players in school history. While he was throwing for all those yards and touchdowns, Mason rode the bench for four seasons.

There were times over the years that Mason talked to Richt about transferring, but each time he decided to stay.

“We had three or four different conversations about what he should do,” Richt said. “The thing I appreciate about him is when he came to me, he was like, ‘Hey, coach, if I was your son, what would you tell me?’

“I didn’t say, ‘I think you should go no matter what.’ I talked about if you stay this could happen, if you go there is no guarantee of anything good happening for you.”

He stayed, and now the good is about to happen after a four-year wait.

“He’s really sacrificed a lot for this team,” Richt said. “He stayed because he loves Georgia and he especially loves his teammates. But he also knew this season was going to come and he was going to be surrounded by a lot of skill guys, a lot of great backs, receivers, veteran linemen, a defense that should be matured from a year ago.

“I think the stage is set for him to have a tremendous senior year.”

Murray was a special player at Georgia and it’s been tough to say goodbye, but the Bulldogs have already embraced their new quarterback.

“We believe in Hutson and have a lot of confidence in him,” star tailback Todd Gurley said. “He’s leading this team.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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