ATHENS - Aaron Murray stated even before last season ended that his goal for 2013 was to work on his running. Most took that to mean Murray going back to being a scrambler, and Murray seemed to be implying that too.
But as it turned out the real aim, according to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, was to "extend the play.: That means using his feet, and his smarts, in a number of ways besides just scrambling.
“Early in his career that’s all he really did, was look to extend the play and run around," Bobo said during a news conference on Wednesday to preview the season. "We worked hard at becoming a complete quarterback, progressing, working the pocket and going through your progressions, your first and your second. Knowing when to throw the ball away, not forcing it. Those things. Now – and we’re doing a good job of that – but sometimes when we go 1-2-3 we’re maybe not just getting down, not protecting the ball, when sometimes we feel like we’ve gotta extend plays.
"In college football now there are times you see a guy can extend a play with their legs. I’m not talking like RG III or (Collin) Kaepernick in San Francisco, those types of things. But it’s a slide in the pocket, it’s a move to the right, it’s throwing on the run.”
Bobo also pointed to one sign that this isn't just a bunch of offseason talk: Murray has dropped weight, about five or six pounds, down to nearly 200 pounds, in order to be ready to run more. In fact, Bobo said Murray is in "the best shape of his life."
“He feels like he’s more athletic, because we’ve talked about extending plays,” Bobo said.
There are a couple other reasons for the "extend the plays" mantra, one said and one unsaid.
Murray will be a fourth-year starter, thus his knowledge of the playbook and comfort in the system gives him leeway to freelance. When a play breaks down or isn't going the way it's designed, the coaches are comfortable that Murray will make the right adjustment, whether that means scrambling or just moving around in the pocket to find a better passing option.
“He’s really an extension of our offensive staff, so to speak," Bobo said. “Scheme-wise there isn’t anything we feel he can’t handle.”
The unstated reason for trying to extend the play is the offensive line. It's still the biggest question mark on the offense, so better for Murray to be prepared for a play to break down, or unplanned pressure coming his way.
Still, it's an experienced offensive line, with three seniors and two juniors figuring in the main rotation. Bobo also praised the intelligence of the linemen, saying that like Murray, they can handle an in-play adjustment.
“They’re a smart group that can handle a lot of stuff," Bobo said. "That’s another reason we have success on offense, is their knowledge.”