Georgia’s future at quarterback has some questions

semerson@macon.comDecember 21, 2011 

ATHENS -- The Georgia football team broke for the Christmas break on Tuesday. Starting quarterback Aaron Murray collected his belongings and drove home to Tampa, Fla., where he will spend the holidays while waiting the rest of the team’s arrival for the Outback Bowl.

Backup quarterback Hutson Mason drove home to Marietta, where he and his family will almost certainly discuss a big decision.

And Christian LeMay, a North Carolina native, will watch his second straight season pass with hardly even a significant practice rep.

At first glance, Georgia seems set at quarterback for two more seasons with Murray, one of the top at his position in the SEC. But the Bulldogs’ situation at the most important position is actually full of questions.

The central one revolves around Mason, who has been open about possibly transferring after this season in order to start somewhere else. And if Mason does leave, is LeMay ready to be the top backup? Finally, it may not be likely to happen, but what if Murray has left the door open to exploring the NFL after next year.

The assumption around the Georgia program has been that Murray will be a four-year starter, since the 6-foot-1 Tampa native doesn’t fit the mold of player NFL scouts salivate over. But Murray has opened the door to the possibility. He applied this year for an NFL draft evaluation, and while he said there was “no chance” he would leave this year, he was coy about after his junior season.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me. I just want to win games,” he said.

Murray has won 16 of those at Georgia and has started every game the past two years. He broke Matt Stafford’s single-season record for touchdown passes and is on pace to break several other Georgia career records.

The sophomore has been inconsistent at times. But it’s clear that he’s the leader for head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

Mason realizes that, too, which is why he’s contemplating a transfer. He has played in four games each of the past two seasons, never in a critical part of the game. Mason and Murray have the same amount of eligibility left, and Mason has made clear he wants to play at some point.

“It’s kept me up a lot of nights, I mean a lot,” Mason said midway through the season. “It’s rough. I would probably have a lot of peace with it if I knew that, ‘Hey Aaron’s a junior or senior, and hey my time will come.’ But not getting redshirted and just knowing that me and him are the same year and knowing that the pros don’t look as good next year (for Murray), that my time’s ticking.”

Taking a redshirt next year could push Mason into position to start in 2014, assuming Murray stays the next two seasons. But Mason expressed concerns about that, too, knowing he would still have to beat out LeMay and Brice Ramsey, a top recruit who has committed to sign with Georgia in 2013.

Richt said he has spoken with Mason but declined to speculate on what might happen.

“But I can understand where he’s coming from,” Richt said Tuesday. “I just really don’t want to get into it. We have talked, I can say that. I’m trying to help him make whatever decision he needs to make, make it a good one, make it for all the right reasons. We value him; we think he’s a very good player. We would definitely want him to stay, I can tell you that.”

Bobo also declined to get into a discussion of Mason’s future but did offer a scouting report on the sophomore.

“I know he’s got an uncanny ability to hit the open receiver,” Bobo said. “He has great vision and feel. Great pocket presence. He has a very quick release and throws all the immediate balls extremely well. The deep balls we continue to work on, and he needs to improve on. But (Mason has great) ability to get rid of the ball very quickly and be very accurate.”

The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster is LeMay, but he has been relegated to scout team and only the occasional second-team practice rep this season. He’s redshirting this season.

LeMay had what Bobo called a “difficult transition” from high school, when he was suspended from his team his senior year. He enrolled early and hasn’t gotten many key reps.

“I’m looking forward to seeing this guy in the spring, after a year and understanding things a lot better,” Bobo said.

LeMay will make the trip to Tampa but will not play. Should something happen to Murray, it will be Mason or even walk-on Parker Welch who plays.

And when the bowl is over, Mason will once again meet with his family, and perhaps the Georgia coaches, and reach a decision.

“It’s just one of those weird situations where I’ve just gotta figure out what’s best for me and how important it is for me to play,” Mason said.

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