ATHENS — It was only a handful of passes in a routine workout during the weekend, but receiver Kris Durham likes what he has seen from new Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason.
“He hit me in stride every single time,” Durham said Tuesday at the Peach State Pigskin Preview at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. “I was very, very impressed with him.”
It wasn’t just Mason looking to make a strong first impression. Georgia’s players are still filtering on to campus for summer workouts, but many of the true freshmen are getting their first taste of life with the Bulldogs.
Mason’s situation is unique in that, in an ideal world, he won’t see the field. But with just one other player on the roster taking snaps at quarterback this summer, there’s a possibility that with one snap of the football, Mason could be the team’s starter.
That means plenty of work for the young quarterback this summer — but it’s work Durham is confident Mason will undertake with enthusiasm.
“He’s ready to work,” Durham said. “You can tell that from just talking to the guy and watching him. And whether he redshirts or plays right away, he’s going to do whatever’s best for the team, and those are the kind of guys you want.”
Of course, Mason isn’t the only freshman Georgia will be counting on this fall. While many of the starting jobs appear set already, depth at several key positions remains a question, and that’s where the freshmen might have their biggest impact.
With only a handful of experienced pass catchers to go along with A.J. Green, Georgia’s receiving corps could get a boost from Michael Bennett this season. The 6-foot-3 receiver from Alpharetta arrived on campus last week looking lean and quick, Durham said, and while there will be much for Bennett to learn before he takes the field on a game day, the potential is promising.
“He’s got a lot of talent, and he looked good out there,” Durham said of his early work with Bennett.
At outside linebacker, the Bulldogs could need some immediate impact from the newest members of the defense, head coach Mark Richt said. With only two experienced players — Justin Houston and Cornelius Washington — on the depth chart this spring, Richt said he anticipates plenty of reps for incoming freshmen like T.J. Stripling, Dexter Morant and Brandon Burrows.
“Those guys are the body types we think will fit into that role,” Richt said. “I hope we don’t have to rely on those guys as they’re trying to figure it out, and some of them have got to grow a little bit physically, too. T.J.’s not a really thick guy right now. Dexter’s a little bit slim. Burrows is a bit more physical. But we need to get those guys in there and learn what to do, and hopefully we don’t have to play them too much.”
That’s the plan all around, Richt said. Ideally, the freshmen get adjusted to college life before they’re called on to do too much.
But as Richt also points out, the adjustment for many of Georgia’s players to working with a new quarterback or learning the new defensive scheme will be the same adjustments the veterans have to endure, too. That means some playing time could be found early for some of Georgia’s newcomers.
“With spring ball you kind of get an upper hand — just a little bit,” linebacker Akeem Dent said. “We have just a slight advantage over these guys, but it gives us an opportunity to help them learn the defense so they’ll be able to make plays as well.”