As we preview the 2013 football season, we have counted down Georgia's 10 most important players. This is not a ranking of the team's best players, rather a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
And now, in case you haven't figured it out by now, the most important player is ...
1. Aaron Murray
WHY HE’S VITAL: Those last critics who said they just didn’t see why Murray should be the quarterback, who swore Hutson Mason should be given a chance, those critics are now well, who knows. Surely they’ll return the next time Murray has a bad series or throws a pick. Because that will happen. But the rational fans always knew Murray had the potential for greatness, that no quarterback is perfect, and that Georgia’s best chance for victory was No. 11 under center. That’s why there was plenty of rejoicing when he announced his return in early January. No one’s saying Mason isn’t a good quarterback. But we don’t know yet. He’s never played a significant down in college. Murray has, and by the way if Georgia goes 14-0 – not likely, but not impossible – he will finish tied with David Greene for wins as a Georgia starting quarterback. Never mind the school passing records, those are pretty either set or will be, assuming Murray stays healthy this season. Yes, Murray will hurry a pass occasionally, and yes he will try to fit a pass to a receiver that’s just not there. You know what, when you attempt 1,131 passes in your first three seasons of college, there are a few you’d like back. But here’s one of the surest things you can say about the Georgia Bulldogs in 2013: If there’s one player you don’t want to see getting up slow after a play, one player you don’t want to see getting treatment on the sideline, it’s Murray. That’s why he’s the most important player for this team.
QUOTABLE: “I’ve had my share of fun. I’ve been here for four years. I’ve had my spring breaks, I’ve had my summer vacations. This is my last chance to leave here – like I’ve said multiple times, I wanna win championships. And this is my last season to do that. So I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure I’m completely ready to go.” - Murray
BEST CASE: It would be nitpicking to ask for anything more, statistically, than he did last year: 3,893 passing yards, a completion percentage of 64.5, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Murray has also said he wants to get back to running, like he did as a freshman. That would be good too. And yes, once and for all, he can answer the remaining critics who say he has trouble in big games. Hyperbolic as it may seem, a best-case scenario can include Murray winning the Heisman and Georgia winning the national title. Why not?
WORST CASE: The interceptions go back up. The line can’t block Jadeveon Clowney and Murray finishes his career 0-4 against South Carolina. Murray struggles against Florida and drops 2-2 against the Gators. And the Bulldogs are sitting home for the SEC championship this year. The naysayers come back out of the woodwork, stats be damned.
FINAL WORD: It actually just seems to be non-Georgia people, media and fans, who bring up the “Murray in big games” meme. It seems an unfair and unwarranted criticism at this point, and with another solid season, Murray should leave on the Mount Rushmore of Georgia quarterbacks. This season is about legacy. If Murray leads Georgia to an SEC championship, you can argue he belongs in even more rarified air. And the fact Murray’s legacy is tied so much to Georgia’s win total shows just how important he is to the team.