Aaron Murray’s Decision to Stay: the Most Important Moment for Georgia Since Herschel
I might be crazy, but I’m rarely one to speak in absolutes. Speaking in concrete terms leaves me no room for error. I need room for error. There is very little black and white for me and a way more than 50 shades of gray. Within the frame of the 2012 Georgia Bulldogs I didn’t find the South Carolina loss to be season ending and I didn’t find the win over the Gators to be season-making. I’m just not that guy. But I’m about to make a very finite, and possibly extreme statement.
Aaron Murray’s decision to stay in Athens, Georgia is the single most important personnel announcement the Bulldogs have seen since Herschel Walker’s commitment to the University of Georgia.
I expressed that sentiment to my dad earlier over the phone and as the words left my mouth they seemed ridiculous. Thirty plus years of talent, coaching changes and even administrative turnover could surely dispute such a notion. But then as I pondered the magnitude of Murray for a little longer, it began to make sense again. Consider this context:
In 2012 the Georgia Bulldogs came painstakingly close to a National Championship Game appearance. How close? A few yards. How close? Closer than the Dawgs have been since the days of Herschel. How close? Close enough to bring a record-setting redshirt junior QB who had already graduated and was well on his way to a Master’s degree back to school, despite a Draft grade as high as the second round. That’s pretty daggum close.
Offensively the Georgia Bulldogs return practically everything from the most prolific offense (in scoring, yards, first downs, you name it) in the school’s storied history. With no disrespect to the lone departing contributors Tavarres King and Marlon Brown (who has been out since early November anyway), the offense should be even better next year. Michael Bennett, Murray’s go to third down/bailout receiver is back. Todd Gurley and (especially Keith Marshall) can only get better. The offensive line can only improve and depth will be added in the trenches.
But, if Murray had not come back, the questions would have been vast. First and foremost, who would have been under center? As of today it would have been Hutson Mason, a redshirt junior with questionable arm strength and little experience. Waiting in the wings would be a walk-on, Parker Welch who has beaten out Christian LeMay. And, enrolling soon is true freshman Brice Ramsey. Georgia has plenty of athletes to utilize and plenty of options at the QB position, but each potential candidate would offer some combination of the following:
- Lack of game experience
- Lack of playbook knowledge
- Lack of arm strength
Those qualities would limit the effectiveness of Gurley, Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell, Bennett, Arthur Lynch, etc. Murray’s return magnifies their skill sets and Mike Bobo’s offense as a whole. Instead of limited offensive sets, even more wrinkles will be added. The 2013 offense should surpass the 2012 edition, and will likely be the most explosive offense in the SEC and one of the most dynami in the nation.
The defense will have a lot of questions as boat loads of talent is departing for the NFL. But lost in all of those individual accolades and the despair of the departures of the past few days has been the fact that Todd Grantham’s defense drastically underperformed in 2012. This is not an article about this year’s defense but to hammer the point home here are a few tidbits of the letdown:
- Georgia allowed 20+ points to Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Kentucky. In 2011 the team gave up an average of just 20.6 for the entire season.
- Georgia allowed 32 or more points on three occasions, allowing 44 to Tennessee, 35 to South Carolina and 32 to Alabama.
- The Dawgs allowed 351.2 total yards per game in 2012. In 2011 that number was just 268.5.
- The Dawgs allowed a few more passing yards per game this year, but most disturbing of all: Georgia allowed 177.8 rushing yards per game. That ranked 12th in the SEC ahead of only Tennessee and Auburn.
I am confident in the talent Todd Grantham and Mark Richt have recruited. I am confident in the new defensive line coach. I am confident in Aaron Murray’s ability to take a lot of the pressure off of young developing players. And ultimately, I’m confident that the 2013 Georgia defense will be more than adequate in performing at a high level. I think next year’s developing talent can actually surpass – at least statistically – this year’s underachieving class of superstars.
But, without Murray leading a high-powered offense, the early stretch of 2013 could have been rough for a settling-in defense.
Murray’s back though, and things are looking up. And when you’re coming off of a this-close-to-a-National-Championship season, and things are looking up, something special is bound to happen. Something, dare I say, Herschel-like.
Yeah. I said it.
That’s all I got/