Georgia’s backup plan needs a backup plan

semerson@macon.comAugust 24, 2012 

ATHENS -- Hutson Mason knows it’s a weird situation. Every game this season, he will suit up, get ready to play ... and then hope he doesn’t.

Such is the state of the backup quarterback job at Georgia, where the top reserve to Aaron Murray wants to take a year off, but the next man in line doesn’t quite have the confidence of his coaches yet.

If all goes according to plan -- at least Mason’s plan -- he will sit out this season. Thus he will enter next year again as a junior and Murray a senior, assuming he doesn’t bolt for the NFL. In that scenario, Mason will be in position to have at least one year as the starter.

It was the promise of being able to redshirt that convinced Mason not to transfer after last season, when he admits he was “probably” on the way out.

But what if something happens to Murray? That’s where things get interesting.

Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have said that if it’s a tight game, then Mason will go in. If it’s just a matter of mop-up duty, then Christian LeMay, a redshirt freshman, will get the call.

But there’s an in-between scenario that worries Mason. He doesn’t want to end up replacing Murray for just one game, burning his redshirt and then having Murray be healthy enough to start the next one.

“No, not at all. That’s why you have to have a plan going into it,” Mason said. “When anybody gets hurt, you’ve gotta figure out how long they’re gonna be hurt for. If my number gets called on in any way, like from day one here, I’m here to help the team to win. So continue to just hope and pray that Murray stays healthy, and we don’t have to cross that bridge.”

Mason said he and the coaches have yet to sit down and develop a firm plan for such an in-between scenario. But he wants such a meeting to happen before the season starts next week.

“That’s the most difficult part of the situation, is trying to figure out if Murray did get hurt, how do you identify how long he’s gonna be out for,” Mason said. “To me, you have to have a plan going into it. You know, we’ll figure out something before, so it doesn’t jump up and surprise us all.”

Murray has started every game since 2010 and is entrenched as the starter. Mason has been his backup the past two seasons but never has seen action during critical game time. He has appeared in eight games, attempting 47 passes, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions.

But Mason has extensive experience compared to LeMay, who hasn’t seen the field in a real game since 2009. He was dismissed from his high school team before his senior year, then enrolled at Georgia a semester early.

After Mason decided to redshirt this year, LeMay entered spring practice knowing the main backup role to Murray was his, as long as he could prove he could do it. But Bobo and Richt still say Mason is the No. 2.

“The other two guys have performed better at this point,” Bobo said. “LeMay’s done a good job. But I feel really good about the top two guys.”

LeMay said his mindset this preseason is simple.

“Be ready,” he said. “Honestly, this is doing nothing but making us all better. We all have to be on our toes and be on our Ps and Qs and work together to be the best team, and the best quarterbacks we can.”

Mason, for his part, said he’s not treating this as a year off. He has actually put on weight, about 10 pounds, up to 205.

“It’s not really a year off for me. It’s not really a true redshirt year,” he said. “So I’m just preparing like I normally prepare, and hoping I don’t play.”

And he laughed as he said that.

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