ATHENS — Aaron Murray is already thinking about his iPod playlist for Saturday morning.
“Some mellow, slow-jam country music,” Murray said. “No Eminem or rock songs or anything like that. I’d get too pumped up.”
Georgia’s head coach Mark Richt was worried about the opposite for Murray, a 19-year-old freshman.
“He’s human. He’s a freshman. And I think he’s gonna have nerves like everyone else,” Richt said. “I’m a 50-year-old man, I’m gonna have nerves, too.”
As the countdown decreases for Murray’s debut as Georgia’s quarterback, Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette the mantra remains the same on all fronts:
n Lowered expectations from Richt.
n Boyish enthusiasm from Murray.
n Stated confidence from his teammates.
Richt spent a good portion of his first game-week news conference discussing Murray and his role. All preseason, Richt has preached that Murray doesn’t need to be a hero, and he continued that Tuesday.
“Hopefully our fans will understand he’s a freshman,” Richt said. “He’s a rookie, he’s gonna make mistakes. He probably won’t be lights out as far as his accuracy, his decisions, all those things. He’s gonna be finding his way. Hopefully his teammates will help him out.”
Of course Richt has little choice but to count on Murray. The backup is a true freshman, Hutson Mason, or junior Logan Gray, who is playing receiver and has been hurt.
How much is Richt trying to lower expectations for Murray? When he was asked if the successes of Stafford and Greene would set hopes higher for Murray, the coach answered by disputing that Stafford did that well as a freshman.
Stafford did finish his freshman season with three straight wins — over Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. But he had mistakes early on.
“What I’ve learned is that you’re better off starting slow and you’re better off starting with a smaller package and repping him over and over and over with this smaller package,” Richt said. “And then hopefully he’ll have success and you can kind of grow as you go.”
Murray’s concern seems to be not getting too amped up beforehand. Hence the desire for a slow-music playlist.
“I get extremely pumped up,” he said. “It’d be a good thing if I were on defense, and I’d probably take someone’s head off. But on offense and especially at quarterback you want to be a little bit more mellow.”
Murray did think he would calm down once the game started, and he has a chance to take in the Sanford Stadium atmosphere.
The one thing that’s never been questioned, at least since the beginning of August, is whether Murray has the proper command of the huddle. Right tackle Josh Davis, a senior, said that Murray has “handled it like a veteran.” Another senior, receiver Kris Durham, echoed that.
“He can’t sit there and worry about outside critiques and that sort of stuff. He just has to get himself ready,” Durham said. “He’s doing a fantastic job. You can already see from the first day of camp through yesterday when we practiced, he’s just taking more and more leadership, more and more command.
“You can tell that he’s grown up a lot in the past month. He’s gonna continue to do that.”
The Georgia football program is counting on it.