ATHENS, Ga. — Some of the drama may have disappeared with the dismissal of Zach Mettenberger earlier this week, but when Georgia's post-spring depth chart was finally revealed, it was still the quarterbacks that provided the most fodder for conversation.
Redshirt freshman Aaron Murray was listed as the team's No. 1 quarterback, ahead of junior Logan Gray — the only other scholarship player at the position following Mettenberger's departure – and head coach Mark Richt said it was an honor Murray earned with a strong spring performance.
“On a consistent basis, he performed better than Logan at this point,” Richt said. “That's really all there is to it. It’s the usual things — accuracy, decision making, those types of things.”
Although Mettenberger, who was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules last Sunday, turned in the strongest performance in the team’s G-Day game at the conclusion of spring practice, Richt said that Murray was clearly the spring's top performer and would have been ahead of Mettenberger regardless of the dismissal.
But while Murray proved worthy of the top spot on the depth chart, Richt said there is still a long way to go before a starter is officially named.
“We see Murray ahead of Logan right now, but by no means does that guarantee a starting position in the first ballgame,” Richt said. “If I thought it was enough to just flat-out name a starter right now, I would do that. But at this point, we’re not ready to do that. But we feel like (Murray) is definitely the No. 1 guy at this point, and we'll see what happens by the time we start the first game.”
Gray handled the No. 2 job last season behind Joe Cox and saw minimal playing time. Following the season, he considered a switch to wide receiver, but was convinced to remain at quarterback through the spring. With Mettenberger's dismissal, Gray now seems poised to be no worse than No. 2 in the fall, but Richt said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Gray could still swap positions.
“I want (Gray) to be in the best position to help Georgia win, and whether that's No. 2 quarterback or getting some reps at receiver or something, that remains to be seen,” Richt said. “But we just want to get him in the best position to help Georgia.”
Richt said Gray showed progress this spring, becoming more comfortable at quarterback and gaining a better understanding of his timing and progressions.
Behind Gray will be incoming freshman Hutson Mason, who will arrive from Lassiter High School in June.Although Richt said he would be wary of giving playing time to a true freshman, he said that given the lack of depth at quarterback, there will be a need to make sure Mason is prepared to play if called upon.
“There’s no question there will be a greater sense of urgency in the quarterback room to get him prepared, but I think he’s got a sense of urgency anyway, because I know the kind of young man he is,” Richt said.
Although Murray arrived at Georgia as one of the most heralded quarterback recruits in the 2009 class out of Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., his performance during G-Day caused some hesitation among fans.
Murray completed 10-of-22 passes for 96 yards and threw one interception in the game, looking a bit indecisive on several deep balls.
“He actually hit a much higher percentage of the deep balls in the other scrimmages and other practices than he did that day,” Richt said. “But he must hit a higher percentage of deep balls than he hit in that game.
Richt said he hoped Murray's G-Day struggles would be a positive learning experience, but said he wasn't concerned about the quarterback's overall ability to prepare for the starting job and lead Georgia’s offense throughout the offseason.
“He played on a team (in high school) that knew how to win and knew what it takes as far as camaraderie and unity,” Richt said. “He knows what that feels like. He’s been through that before, and I think if our team will respond to him regardless of his age, I think it will go very well because he knows what it looks like, he knows what it feels like, and he's very eager to do that.”