It’s going to be strange watching Georgia football without seeing quarterback Aaron Murray under center.
Since the 2010 season, Murray has been a staple in the Bulldogs' starting lineup and he’s been credited with much of the success the program has had in the past four seasons.
But one player has been alongside Murray almost the entire way and he is using that valuable time as a backup to work his way into Georgia lore in 2014.
Hutson Mason will take over the starting quarterback role this season and coach Mark Richt said he couldn’t think of a better replacement to seamlessly create continuity as the Bulldogs transition from Murray, who left the program as the SEC’s all-time leading passer.
“I think Hutson being there, us knowing Hutson is the guy, the team knowing Hutson's the guy, Hutson knowing how everything works, you know,” Richt said Thursday during SEC media day. “Hutson has been in our system obviously going into his fifth year. But there's been no change in our system. He has the blessing of being with Coach Bobo the entire time, being in the same system the entire time, seeing Murray doing it and having a chance to start a few games last year as well. I think we'll transition well.”
It wasn’t so long ago that Mason and Murray were in a heated battle for the starting role before Murray eventually solidified the position. Richt said he and Mason had several conversations about Mason’s future, but that instead of transferring, Mason stayed loyal.
“He wanted to stick it out and have his moment to shine with the Bulldogs,” Richt said. “He's really sacrificed a lot for this team. He's staying because he loves Georgia and he especially loves his teammates. But he also knew that this season was going to come and he was going to be surrounded by a lot of skill guys, a lot of great backs, receivers, some veteran linemen, a defense that should be matured from a year ago.”
Despite being with the program since 2010, Mason doesn’t have a lot of experience. He appeared in four games in both 2010 and 2011 before being redshirted in 2012. Last season, he played in five games, including making two starts after Murray tore his ACL and was lost for the season. He threw for 968 yards and five touchdowns. He led the Bulldogs back from a 20-0 deficit in his first start against Georgia Tech and then threw for 320 yards against Nebraska in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.
Georgia was picked by the media to finish second in the SEC East behind South Carolina, but with top running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley, Chris Conley and Michael Bennett returning, Mason has a chance to make his own mark by leading the Bulldogs to the SEC title game for the third time in the past four seasons.
“I think the stage is set for him to have a tremendous senior year,” Richt said.
Receiver Chris Conley working on his next movie
Georgia receiver Chris Conley made headlines this offseason after he made a Star Wars fan film that blew away everyone who watched it.
“I like to think of myself as a really ambitious person, and so when I set our goals for what we wanted to do with this film, I set them extremely high,” Conley said at SEC media day on Thursday. “I said, ‘Guys, we’re going to shoot for the stars and if we miss, land on the moon.’ And when we did that, we really just wanted people to realize that no matter who you are, you can step outside of your box. I know people don’t think that a Division I football player is going to do something with Star Wars and I think we surprised people. I think it was a success.”
Now, Conley, who is returning for his senior season after injury a year ago, said he’s already started working on his next film project. The journalism major, who was wearing Batman socks, said he was stepping away from science fiction genre and will explore the world of superheroes. He didn’t give many details about his new project, but after watching his Star Wars film, there will be high expectations.
“After going through this process and the people that I’ve met and the opportunities that it’s afforded me, moving forward we’re working on another project,” Conley said. “I love to write, I’m a journalism major, and the fact that I can tell a story visually and audibly, it’s just something that I enjoy and I think that I can do in the future.”
Richt reflects on 14 years at Georgia
Richt is the longest-tenured coach in the SEC with 14 seasons at Georgia and he no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.
“I've had opportunities to leave. But I chose to stay,” Richt said. “I chose to stay at Georgia before I even came to Athens. When I accepted the job, my goal was that this would be the last stop for me because there's no greater place than Athens, Georgia. There's no greater program than the University of Georgia in my mind, for me.”
Richt said one of the things that he enjoys most about his job is seeing players go all the way through the program, become men and ultimately come back to the program with their families. He said it’s rewarding to see what kind of people his players become after they leave Georgia.
“I love watching a guy come in as a freshman, go all the way through graduation, watch him grow up. Then it's even more fun five, 10 years later for the guy to come back with his family and talk about all the life lessons he learned while he was at Georgia, and being so thankful for the experience. I've had guys that were just total hard heads during the time I had them, but come back and say, now I see, coach. Now I get it. Thank you for what you did for me, what Georgia did for me.
“I wouldn't trade that for anything.”
Richt has no hard feelings regarding Tray Matthews
When Auburn announced last month that it was welcoming dismissed Georgia safety Tray Matthews to its roster, many thought there Richt would have hard feelings about the transfer.
On Thursday, he said it was just the opposite.
“When guys leave our program, my goal for them is that they continue their career and they continue and realize all their dreams,” Richt said. “Life's too short. They're young men that make mistakes. If somewhere along the way you learn from your mistake, you turn it around, finish your career strong, I'm happy for the guy.”
Matthews, who started six games last season as a true freshman, was dismissed from Georgia after being arrested in March for misdemeanor theft by deception after cashing checks from the UGA Athletic Association with its mobile app, then immediately cashing them again at a convenience store.
Matthews also was involved in a classroom incident where he was accused of talking loudly during his children's literature class and then disrespected the professor.
He's most famous for running into safety Josh Harvey-Clemons while trying to make a play in the waning seconds against Auburn. The ball bounced off both players and into the waiting hands of receiver Ricardo Louis, who scored the game-winning touchdown.
Richt said he put no restrictions on Matthews' transfer and wanted only the best for him.
- - - - - - -