ATHENS — Aaron Murray ended the suspense nine days before the deadline: The quarterback is returning for his senior season at Georgia.
Murray announced the news on his Twitter feed Sunday evening: “Blessed to be the QB for the Dawgs, not ready to leave just yet. Time to get back to work & help lead this team to a championship.”
The news gives the Bulldogs another chance to make a run at SEC and national titles. Murray leads the nation in pass efficiency rating — just ahead of Alabama’s AJ McCarron, who plays Monday night in the BCS title game — and he will be a fourth-year starter leading a veteran, talent-laden offense. This season, Murray led an offense that is set to finish the season ranked first nationally in yards per play.
Murray’s decision would not have been a surprise a few months ago, but he created some question about his decision by being very close to the vest. He said last week that he had received a “second- or third-round” grade from the NFL draft advisory committee, calling that “pretty good.” His sister posted on Twitter on Sunday that she wished she had a dollar for every time someone had asked her about her brother’s decision.
But Murray is coming back, ensuring the team will have its most important offensive player, as well as the vast majority of its starting lineup.
Murray ranks second all-time at Georgia in career passing yards, with 10,091, trailing only David Greene. But Murray already holds the career touchdown mark, with 95.
The news comes five days after Murray was named the MVP of the Capital One Bowl, when he passed for a career-high 427 yards and five touchdowns.
Immediately after the game, Georgia junior linebacker Alec Ogletree announced he was turning pro. That was expected. So was the decision announced Friday by Jarvis Jones, the team’s All-America linebacker, that he too was entering the draft.
Murray’s decision had a bit more drama to it. He repeatedly laughed off the increasing questions about it and did not show his hand either way. But a few days before the Capital One Bowl, he did give an indication he was returning by talking about what he planned to work on in the offseason — rather than the NFL Combine.
“I think in the offseason my goal is to work on my speed a little bit, get back to running it a little bit more,” he said. “I lost maybe a step or two in my old age, so I gotta work a bit on that in the offseason a little bit.”
There were conflicting thoughts on Murray. Former NFL head coach Tony Dungy, whose son was a high school teammate of Murray’s in Tampa, Fla., said he would consider taking Murray as the first quarterback in the draft. But among those who had urged Murray to come back was ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
“I would go back for another year if I were Aaron Murray because I think unless you’re a guaranteed first-round pick it’s wise to go back,” Kiper said in December. “Especially when you play at Georgia with the talent around the quarterback there, even though (Tavarres) King will be moving on. But you’ve got (Malcolm) Mitchell coming back, the great young running backs around you, the line, you’ve got a lot of good components in terms of the situation there, in terms of the talent around the quarterback. So I would go back.”
Now Georgia awaits one more big go-or-stay decision: Nose tackle Kwame Geathers, a junior, said last week that his decision could go all the way to the Jan. 15 deadline.