My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Future Looks Bright for Murray, Mettenberger

Mark Richt isn't interested in looking ahead to next year, and probably for good reason. But his job dictates a steady focus on the task at hand. Ours doesn't. So the question on most people's minds, even as Georgia wraps up the 2009 season, is who might be playing quarterback in 2010.

Back in January, when Matthew Stafford announced he was leaving for the NFL, the job of starter was immediately passed along to Joe Cox. When Cox departs at year's end, things won't be so cut and dry.

"It'll be wide open," Richt said.

That means Logan Gray, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger will all get their shot in the spring, and the battle may not be over until fall camp breaks and the Dawgs begin preparations for next season's opener.

While we've gotten to see a bit of Gray this year, the majority of the curiosity focuses on the two freshmen. In fact, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has even ratcheted up the curiosity factor but making Murray and Mettenberger off limits to the media for the remainder of the season.

Perhaps that move is simply to ensure the duo is concentrating on getting ready for the challenge that awaits, but either way, it's pretty clear that both are making strides, even while riding the bench (and avoiding interviews).

Mettenberger had farther to go, but his upside is tremendous. His arm strength is off the charts, but his footwork and his physique were question marks early on. But as the fall has progressed, Bobo said he's seen marked improvement.

"Zach has matured a lot," Bobo said. "He’s changed his body. He came in, he was 250 pounds. (Now) he’s 231 or 232 and has really improved his footwork and throwing the ball."

As much the physical side of the game has improved, Mettenberger has made strides in his mental approach, too. While Murray took his team to a state title his senior year at Plant High School in Tampa and was roundly considered one of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Mettenberger's skills remained raw and his background less polished. The result was some issues with confidence.

"It’s just him getting more confidence of the system and playing in a system like this where he played for four different coordinators in high school," Bobo said. "Aaron had played in kind of a different system and threw the ball a little more. Zach’s still learning that part, but has a tremendous amount of potential.”

That potential offers plenty of intriguing possibilities, but at the moment, Murray is the clear leader among the freshmen in the race to replace Cox.

A shoulder injury has forced Cox to back off his throwing during the week this season, and as a result, Georgia's backups get plenty of work, particularly on Wednesdays when Cox doesn't throw at all. Gray and Murray have gotten the majority of that work, and Murray has been particularly impressive, despite an elbow injury that caused him to miss several weeks of practice time.

"Aaron Murray comes in every day like he’s the starter, looking at the game plan and takes notes and does a phenomenal job mentally of preparing like he’s going to play every week," Bobo said. "And he’s really been throwing the ball nice the last couple weeks. Really no effects of the injury and doing an outstanding job."

The extra work with Georgia's first- and second-team offenses have been particularly important for both Murray and Mettenberger in their development. Bobo said it's rare for redshirted quarterbacks to get that type of experience, which puts Murray and Mettenberger ahead of the curve for next season.

More than anything though, the work with the No. 1 unit gives the two freshmen a taste of what it's like to be the starting quarterback, which goes much deeper than simply knowing the playbook and putting the ball where it needs to be.

"It’s been big to get reps with what we’re doing and not necessarily just reading a card, but also of learning how to lead, having to step into the huddle and having to tell the play to guys that are on the travel squad and playing on Saturdays," Bobo said. "That’s a valuable experience that you’re not going to get if you’re redshirted and you’re just down on the scout team.”

Fans won't get to see the results until the spring, but Murray and Mettenberger's teammates are already talking about big things in their futures.

“I’ve actually worked with them a lot," receiver Mike Moore said. "When we run routes with the QBs, and when Joe’s not throwing, they’re the main two throwing to us. They’ve been looking better and better every week, every day. Those two guys work hard. They’re very blessed. Mettenberger has a cannon for an arm, and Aaron Murray, you can’t write him off with his arm strength either. He throws a good ball, too. I think we’ll be pretty good in the future with quarterbacks.”

(NOTE: Don't forget we're chatting live at at noon. Get your Dawgs questions in now.)


RaleighDawg said...

Did it seem to you in Mike Moore's quote that Gray is not getting the reps you would think the #2 guy should. What did he mean by, "main two throwing to us?"

Anonymous said...

Given the inability of this coaching staff to select and prepare quarterbacks over the last few years, we should all be very concerned as to whether we will have one quaterback who can compete in the SEC. If I am not mistaken, Shockley and stafford are the two best quarteracks while none of the other ones have been very successful. I think Greene was a Donnan recruit.

David Hale said...

It did seem that way to me Raleigh, but Richt said Gray is getting plenty of work, too, so it may just be that Moore has been running more with the No. 2 unit, perhaps, so he's been working with the freshmen while the No. 1 unit has worked with Gray.

RaleighDawg said...

That makes sense. Maybe it speaks more about Moore's place on the totem pole than Gray.

ChicagoDawg said...

Anon 8:59 -- Great comments. Seriously, that is the best you could come up with? Since 2001, we have had QBs, who went on to have NFL careers, under center for 8 of the 9 seasons. Yeah, this staff sucks, how could they have allowed this team to go 1 season with a QB who will not play in the League? The horror!

Great analysis.

oreo said...

So the complaint now is that the staff doesn’t develop backup quarterbacks?
Richt’s staff has had 3 starters before Cox: Stafford, Shockley, Greene. All 3 have been in the NFL. Any other school not named Oklahoma, USC, Florida, Texas would be lucky to have those 3 the past 9 years.
Is the complaint that the staff didn’t develop JTIII or Blake Barnes?

One thing that has not been mentioned anywhere is the likelihood that Gray could be moved to another position, like WR. Not a lot of depth there, and he’s got good hands. Plus having him in the field with another QB, especially an athletic one like Murray would give Bobo a lot more to play with in terms of gadget plays. If that had happened this season he probably would’ve seen just as many meaningful plays on offense.
Might be too late for that, and the staff will give him all the chances to win the job…but its an idea if he doesn’t develop or if the two freshmen develop and surpass him this offseason.
Maybe its just me dreaming or wishing that JTIII would’ve been moved to TE….

Anonymous said...

LOL ChicagoDawg, there is an excellent chance Anon 8:59 knows nothing about football, or has never seen a UGA game before. There certainly has been a shortage of talent at the QB position since "only" three of three made it to the NFL and we have "only" tied, or won, the SEC East 4 of eight years. The scary thing is guys like that vote (which explains 2006-2009 I guess).

Anonymous said...

Anon. 8:59- That may have been one of the dumber comments I've read on these blogs. And that's saying a lot. My God, we just had our Mark Richt groomed QB taken as the first overall pick in the draft. Even if Greene was a Donnan recruit, it was Richt who coached him up to be the winningest QB in NCAA history (until this weekend at least). Shockley won an SEC Championship. Who are these "other ones" you're talking about?

Anonymous said...

Folks, Richt did not select green. Do you remember Joe T? Stafford was thrown to the wolves because he could not play. Stafford legacy is mixed.

Who was the quarterback who transfered away from GA as he never was going to play. I think there were a couple.

Now we have Joe Cox and Logan Gray. Shockley was here for one year and if he had a better defense at the time and had remained healthy would have had the best year of any of our quaterbacks. Sitting on the bench in the pros is not evidence of success.

ChicagoDawg said...

Anon 10:32 (presumably the same Anon 8:59) -- So, if I am following your logic correctly, you are pissed that the staff failed to develop the 2nd and 3rd string QBs into future NFL players?

From 2001-2004 we had a cat who set the NCAA all-time wins record for QB (just recently tied this year) and he went on to be a 3rd round draft pick and was in the League for 4 years. However, because Richt was at Florida State when Greene was recruited, his success doesn't count? Brilliant. Then we move onto Greene's backup, DJ Shockley, who when given his turn led UGA to an SECC and went onto a 3 year NFL career. He then hands the baton off to the top rated high school recruit from 2005, Matt Stafford, who starts for 3 years and is the No. 1 overall draft pick (first ever QB from GA to have this honor). This is then followed up by the staff signing the No. 1 QB recruit in the country last year, Aaron Murray. For good measure, they also signed, in the same class another top 10 QB recruit and elite-11 selection, Zach Mettenberger. Seriously dude, do you even watch CFB or do you just get on blogs and say stupid shit so as to amuse yourself?

Out said...

ChicagoDawg, I think Matt Barkley was the top rated QB recruit last season while Murray was #2 or #3.

ChicagoDawg said...

Out -- Thanks for the correction.

Well there you have it, maybe Anon is correct, this staff is full of hacks when it comes to QBs. I mean, how else do explain them not being able steal Matt Barkley out of California?

Out said...

I wasn't arguing against you. I think this coaching staff has done great things with the QBs that get recruited here to UGA.

Also, watching Barkley play at USC lately has made me glad that we ended up with the #2.

ChicagoDawg said...

Out -- Thanks, I understood your intent and I agree with you on Barkley. He may end up being special, but thus far he has been a object lesson on the merits of red-shirting QBs.

Anonymous said...

I believe Blake Barnes was the QB in waiting a few years ago and was supposed to be the next big thing...guess not.