Athens, Ga. — A few hours before the Georgia football team started its first practice of the season, coach Mark Richt was at a press conference Monday, trying to come up with the name of his third-string quarterbacks.
“Parker Welch, and, uh,” Richt said, smiling and looking over to the side for some help. “I’ll think of the other gentleman in a minute.”
That would be Greg Bingham, a 6-foot-4 walk-on Columbus High School, who is not listed in the team’s media guide.
Such is the state of Georgia’s depth chart at the game’s most critical position.
“That quarterback room has got to be the youngest room maybe in the history of college football,” Richt said. “We’ve got a redshirt freshman, and a true freshman on scholarship, and then you have two freshmen walk-ons.”
Indeed, the group has a total of zero snaps in a real college game. But judging by their comments Monday, the team has plenty of confidence in its starter.
Aaron Murray earned the job in the spring, then cemented it when Zach Mettenberger was dismissed from the team. Since then, Murray has been earning the praise of teammates for his off-field work habits.
Clint Boling, a senior offensive tackle, said Murray has gone as far as to sit in on line meetings.
“I’ve never seen somebody go over film as much as he does at such an early age,” tight end Aron White said.
“He picks up things pretty fast.”
Part of Murray’s offseason work included talks with the two men he is now most often compared to: David Greene and Matt Stafford. Each of those former Georgia quarterbacks were thrown into the starting jobs as freshmen.
“My goal is just to go out there and be me,” Murray said. “I won’t be David Greene. I won’t be Matt Stafford. (But) I can take some pointers from them.”
Murray said he had a two-hour meeting and a few phone conversations with Greene, whom Murray said “calmed” him down.
The team also put together a cut-up film of Greene, Stafford and Murray, showing them in certain plays and situations.
Richt wasn’t afraid to draw a comparison in at least one way. The coach recalled that Greene absorbed instruction immediately, and was “able to take it from the meeting room to the field.” Murray has resembled Greene so far in his retention ability.
“Aaron has a tremendous work ethic, and you can tell that he is learning it in a systematic way,” Richt said. “And you can tell when it comes time to making those decisions, he has a better chance of making the right one. You have to train your mind as much as your body when you play quarterback.”
But Richt still wants his new quarterback to play within himself, especially with 10 returning starters on offense.
“He doesn’t have to be a hero on every down,” Richt said.
Murray, meanwhile, finds himself in the sudden position of being the veteran in the quarterback meeting.
“I feel a little bad for coach (Mike) Bobo,” Murray said, referring to the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. “But he has five kids under the age of five, so he has experience dealing with this.”
Murray’s quips at least won over the press on media day. His offseason work has won over his teammates. But as Richt pointed out, the more stern test awaits.
“Long-term on this kid, he’s gonna be very, very good. Whether it’s gonna happen this season,” Richt said, not finishing the sentence.
“We’re gonna watch him grow up.“