ATHENS — The play is so renowned among Georgia fans that Mark Richt didn’t need to discuss the score or the opponent, just the name: P-44 Haynes.
He did his best to re-enact the David Greene-to-Verron Haynes pass on stage in front of a few hundred fans in Macon last week — pausing midway through to remind himself that Greene was a lefty — then concluded with an unlikely synopsis of one of the most memorable plays of his career as a coach.
“That play was not spectacular,” Richt said.
Of course, fans remember the circumstances: Five seconds on the clock, Haynes crossing the goal line, Georgia getting its first signature win under Richt against Tennessee.
But the play, Richt said, was nothing special.
“What (Greene) did was what he did every day in practice,” Richt said. “It doesn’t take a superhuman play to be spectacular. There’s a lot of merit to being a steady, solid, great decision maker.”
If there’s one lesson Richt hopes to convey to his new quarterback this offseason, that’s it.
Like Greene, Aaron Murray will be taking over Georgia’s offense as a redshirt freshman. Unlike Greene, however, Murray has the benefit of an extra year in Richt’s system and 10 returning starters on offense to ensure there is no shortage of weapons at his disposal.
It’s how willing Murray is to rely on that knowledge and those weapons that matters most to Richt.
“He needs to understand that you don’t have to do anything spectacular,” Richt said. “You don’t have to put the team on your shoulders. You’re not required to carry this football team. You’re required to do your job, and part of your job is to try not to be a hero.”
It’s not that Murray can’t be a hero. In fact, while Richt has worked to drive home the lesson of playing it safe to his young quarterback, he has been busy touting Murray’s merits to nervous fans wondering if Georgia has the right man for the job.
“Do a little search on Aaron Murray,” Richt told the crowd in Macon. “Watch his high school tape. I think you’ll be just as excited as you were the day he committed and signed at Georgia.”
Richt has yet to officially name Murray the starter, but last week he softened a bit, admitting it was unlikely anyone else could win the job. In fact, there really won’t be much competition.
With junior Logan Gray expected to move to receiver and Zach Mettenberger dismissed from the program earlier this spring, Murray is Georgia’s first and — to some degree — only option at quarterback this season, which means there will be more than enough pressure thrown his way.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Murray said. “When I go on the field that first game and there’s 90,000-plus fans out there screaming, it’s going to be a little hectic, I’ll probably be a little nervous in the huddle, but that’s why you’ve got to prepare all offseason hard.”
Murray has wowed coaches during his year-and-a-half in Athens with his preparation. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Murray spent all of the 2009 season preparing as if he would be the starter despite redshirting. Richt said that, more than three months before the 2010 season opens, the only thing Murray really needs now is experience.
It’s high praise for a freshman who has yet to play a game, but Richt said those compliments are well deserved.
“You would take Aaron Murray every single year that you are recruiting a quarterback,” Richt said.
Richt touted Murray’s quick release, accuracy and preparation. More than anything, however, Richt said Murray has the perfect mind-set for the job.
“He loves team,” Richt said. “He understand what it takes to win, and I like that about him, too.”
While Richt said Georgia’s passing game won’t evaporate while Murray gets his bearings in 2010 — “If we don’t throw the ball to A.J. (Green), we’re not very smart,” he said — it will be that team mentality that Richt hopes his quarterback will rely on in the early going.
“He’s sharp, he understands everything,” Richt said. “But when you take all the knowledge and all the decisions that have to be made, and you add the first time you’re starting in your career, you add 95,000, you add millions of people watching on TV — that takes a little something off of a guy’s ability to process information. So I’d rather start simpler and grow than overload a guy and he gets shook. The last thing we need is for him to get shook up.”