Georgia’s Murray wants to get better for his finale

semerson@macon.comMarch 22, 2013 

ATHENS -- Aaron Murray never has been accused of not enjoying college. In the age of camera phones, Twitter and YouTube, the Georgia quarterback has at various times been shown throwing footballs in the ocean, partying at Florida State and taking part in other exploits common for a young man enjoying life.

So for the final college spring break of his career, Murray capped it off with a trip to, of course, Norman, Okla.

“It’s very flat. Very windy. Not very pretty at all. I would never live there,” Murray said. “I’m very sorry for everybody who lives in Oklahoma. I’m not trying to be mean. But yeah, definitely not a place you go for vacation.”

It wasn’t vacation. Murray already might be one of the most statistically accomplished quarterbacks in school and SEC history, but the main goal remains out there, and his time is short.

So while teammates drove to Panama City or anywhere with open water, Murray was in Norman working with quarterback guru George Whitfield, who was recently profiled in Sports Illustrated. Cam Newton and Andrew Luck are among the quarterbacks to work recently with Whitfield, both prior to starting NFL careers.

But Murray passed on entering this year’s draft. This trip was about getting better for his final year of college.

“I’ve had my share of fun,” Murray said. “I’ve been here for four years. I’ve had my spring breaks, I’ve had my summer vacations. This is my last chance to leave here -- like I’ve said multiple times, I wanna win championships. And this is my last season to do that. So I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure I’m completely ready to go.”

Interestingly, Murray sought out Whitfield independent of his Georgia coaches, who didn’t know about it until after seeing it in the media. But neither head coach Mark Richt nor offensive coordinator Mike Bobo -- both former quarterbacks -- said they minded the outside help.

“I didn’t get the chance to ask him about it yet,” Richt said prior to Thursday’s practice, almost a week after Murray had returned. “I’m glad he went, I’m glad he got value out of it. But I didn’t talk too much about it.”

Richt did say he didn’t notice any “negative effects” from the trip or any difference in Murray’s throwing motion. Bobo echoed that and said as a practice he doesn’t like to mess with his quarterback’s motion or throwing release anyway. Bobo’s understanding is Whitfield’s focus would be on throwing on balance and small mechanical issues.

“He’s excited about it, and felt like he got better, so I was excited for him,” Bobo said. “It doesn’t bother me at all.”

Murray described one drill he went through with Whitfield -- simulating throwing a ball up and over a defender, which Murray said has been a problem for him sometimes.

“A problem I’ve had sometimes is you try to throw it over a defender, but you don’t get the nose of the ball down, so the ball just keeps sailing on you,” Murray said. “We did a lot of practice of really getting your arm up, extending that finger down and getting the ball to rotate back down to the receiver’s hands over the DB’s fingertips.”

Another drill entailed trying to get more velocity by driving the left elbow through the throw. There were also accuracy drills.

“We didn’t throw my old form out the window and start new,” Murray said. “It was more tweaking a thing here or there and work on a couple things.”

There are other subtle changes Murray is planning for this season. Actually, it’s not so much a change as a return to some old ways.

He said late last year, prior to the Capital One Bowl, that he wanted to run the ball more, like he did as a freshman. To that end, Murray said he has lost a bit of weight and would like to play at between 205 to 210 pounds this season.

Counting sack yardage, Murray rushed for 167 yards as a freshman, then 111 as a sophomore and minus-68 as a junior. Of course, his passing numbers improved each year because he was learning to be a better pocket passer. Now Murray would like a good blend of the two, or at least sprinkle in some good runs.

“I need to move more,” he said with a laugh. “My freshman year I ran a lot more, at least was a little more agile. I don’t know if it’s because of the hits or what, slowed me down, I’m an old man. But I felt like I just needed to lose a couple pounds, be able to maybe catch that (extra) five, seven yards if I can.”

Then there’s spring practice, with Georgia having three more weeks to go. It won’t be wasted time, either. Murray said his goal to continue to master the playbook, which might sound ridiculous considering how long he has been on campus and he has had the same offensive coaches the whole time. But his goal is to know the passing game -- and even the running game -- to the extent that Bobo does.

“I’ve put myself in the best situation to throw it, now I want to do the same with the run game as well,” Murray said.

In other words, another small change in a larger effort to finish strong.

“It’s just a guy pursuing excellence,” Richt said.

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