Bulldogs quarterbacks ready for starting battle

sports@macon.comFebruary 14, 2010 

ATHENS — Aaron Murray has been all but named by some as the choice to be Georgia’s next starting quarterback.

Don’t tell him that.

“It’s us three this spring, and we’re going to be going at it,” said Murray, who will be a redshirt freshman this fall. “It’s going to be fun.”

The three includes Murray, classmate Zach Mettenberger and fourth-year junior Logan Gray, and all three bring something different to the table.

Mettenberger is a 6-foot-5 prototypical pocket passer with a reputation as a gunslinger. Gray is the fastest and most mobile of the bunch and has the most experience, both in the system and on the field. But his ability to make plays with his arm is a question mark.

Murray is somewhere in the middle. Listed at 6-1, he doesn’t have the height Mettenberger does, but he has a better reputation accuracy-wise. Murray’s not the blinding speedster that Gray is, but he can make plays with his feet.

It’s that blend, a comforting mix of strength and consistency all around, that seems to have made him the early fan favorite to be the next Bulldogs starter.

But he’s not listening to that.

“It’s pretty much anyone’s shot to take right now,” Murray said. “I’m looking forward to the spring and right now just go out there and work as hard as I can. Right now it’s my goal to get that position, and I’m going to work as hard as I can. But I know they’re going to be going out there, too.”

Murray and Mettenberger have both made strides since enrolling early last spring.

Mettenberger says he’s “10 times better” and has dropped almost 20 pounds since first arriving in Athens. Murray has gained weight in a good way, filling out to 210 pounds after coming in around 190.

And then there’s the whole comfort thing.

“They’ve grown a ton,” Gray said. “I think coming in early, that helped them a lot. They’ve already been through spring practice, so this isn’t their first spring practice. But just maturing from the knowing what to do standpoint, I think that’s the biggest thing. Any young quarterback, it takes a little while to get the comfort behind center that it takes to be successful with the game speed on this caliber of team.”

Last year, there was some clamoring for Murray to replace Joe Cox at midseason. But what he called triceps and forearm tendonitis set Murray back for six weeks at the start of the season. He’s throwing now and has been doing maintenance exercises to try and keep his arm healthy.

Murray wouldn’t speculate as to what would have happened had he been 100 percent all of 2009. The hunger, however, was and is there.

“I wanted to start last year. And I have that same mind-set right now,” Murray said. “But this year I’m a lot more knowledgeable about the defense, about the playbook and things like that. This time I’m better equipped to start if I would.”

Still, spring practice hasn’t even begun, so there is plenty of time for things to play out.

“Whatever happens, happens,” Mettenberger said. “We’re still going to be friends in the end, and (offensive coordinator Mike Bobo) is going to decide. So we really have nothing to do except work hard.”

Murray has pledged to do just that. And he’s not buying into any of the outside chatter, even if it’s positive.

“I don’t read the Internet or papers. Everyone’s going to have their own opinion,” Murray said. “There’s going to be fans out there booing you or people rooting for Zach or Logan to start with. You can’t let that get into your head; you’ve just got to go out there and know every day that I’m not competing against them, I’m not competing against the media and the fans. I’m competing against myself to get better every day. And that’s my ultimate goal, to continue to strive to be the best quarterback I can be and not worry about the outside stuff.”

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