ATHENS, Ga. -- It was the great debut season that few expected. In a season of disappointment, it was one of the few things that went right. It was almost flawless, almost perfect.
And yet, according to Aaron Murray, it wasnt that great.
If I had to grade myself on my performance, Id give myself a C, at best, the Georgia quarterback said.
Most other observers would give Murray an A-minus, at worst: more than 3,000 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, only eight interceptions. Yes, the team struggled to a 6-7 record, but little of the blame rests with a freshman quarterback.
The question entering this season would seem to be whether its even possible for Murray to improve -- especially with star wide receiver A.J. Green gone to the NFL and questions all around him on offense.
But after spending the offseason watching film of every play from 2010 with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, Murray thinks theres two grade levels of improvement to be made.
If you all were able to go back and watch the film the way we watch the film and critique it the way I critique it and the way Coach Bobo critiques it, there were tons of plays last year where I left on the field, Murray said. I couldve thrown a completion here or there, or thrown a touchdown here or there, or checked to a play here or there that I didnt do. There are a lot of corrections to be made.
That includes his accuracy, his footwork, even his knowledge of the Georgia playbook.
But still a C grade after throwing for the second-most yards by a freshman in SEC history? After being named to numerous freshman All-America lists? After tying for the Georgia record for most touchdowns in one season?
Thats what you get out of Aaron; he wants to be great, said junior tight end Orson Charles, who was teammates with Murray at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla. And thats good, thats the type of guy I want on my team, and Im happy on my team. And if he thinks last year wasnt good enough, Im all behind him.
Hell judge himself on wins and losses, rather than stats, said sophomore tight end Arthur Lynch, who is Murrays roommate. Thats what makes him such a great player.
Murray said his performance last year shouldnt have been surprising when you look at the team I had around me. Besides Green (even though he was suspended the first four games), there was also wide receiver Kris Durham (a fourth-round pick), offensive lineman Clint Boling (another fourth-rounder) and Charles.
Murray added that he should have a similar season because of the talent around him this year, but thats debatable. Charles is back, but the offensive line has been decimated by injuries, and the wide receivers and tailbacks are unproven.
We need to take the pressure off of Aaron, Charles said of the rest of the offense.
Head coach Mark Richt was asked this week how much Murray could improve on last year. He thought a moment before saying, Aaron can improve, then acknowledged that 24 TDs and eight picks, thats pretty strong for any season for any guy.
Richt anticipates that Murray now will have quicker recognition in the pocket. His accuracy might improve, and not just in terms of completion percentage but hitting receivers in stride and setting them up for big plays.
Richt recalled a few deep balls where receivers would catch it but be tackled right away.
Youre thankful its a completion and it might be 50 yards or whatever, but, if you hit him on the dead run, he might go to the house, Richt said. Theres probably four or five that Durham had that might have gone to the house.
There also are slant routes where Murray might be able to lead the receiver a bit more and complete a longer play.
I think his accuracy will improve because of his comfort level with what were doing, Richt said. Hes already improved in that everybody really believes in the guy. I think everyone wanted to believe in him last year and saw good signs to believe in. But now, theres no question in their mind that hes the leader of the team.
Murrays worst performance came in the final game: Against Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, he failed to lead the team to any touchdowns, was picked off twice and was held to 198 passing yards.
That was also the only time last year when Murray wore a glove, which drew plenty of outsized attention. Murray said he has no plans to wear one again, but he said he wouldnt promise anything.
Bobo apparently doesnt want Murray to don the glove, either.
He brought that up in the meeting (Thursday): You are not wearing a glove, Murray said Thursday, laughing. He was like, I dont care if you throw better with it or not. I dont want to deal with the media about it. I was like, All right, Coach. I wont wear a glove anymore.