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Quarterback derby begins at UGA


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Quarterback derby begins at UGA

By Tim Tucker

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATHENS -- One is known for his legs, one for his arm and one for a dislocated ankle.

All three were prized prospects in high school, have little or no collegiate experience and desperately want to be Georgia's starting quarterback in the fall.

The high-profile competition begins in earnest Thursday, the first day of spring football practice at Georgia. As tight end Aron White put it, the quarterbacks "come into spring ball with guns blazing, everybody trying to let it loose and prove they're the guy."

The combatants:

Logan Gray, last season's little-used backup, is a junior from Columbia, Mo., who brings speed and athleticism to the competition.

Zach Mettenberger, from nearby Oconee County, is a 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman with an arm so strong that, according to White, "everybody says he's like the second coming of [Matthew] Stafford."

Aaron Murray is a redshirt freshman who gained near-legend status in Tampa by unexpectedly returning from a dislocated ankle/broken fibula and leading his high school team to a state championship while still clearly hobbled.

"The way we're viewing it going into the spring," UGA offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said of the competition, "it's wide open."

All three candidates embrace the challenge. All three say it will be a battle among friends. All three say they expect to win the job.

"It's definitely a big spring for us three quarterbacks," Mettenberger said. "We’re all really excited about the competition, and we're all pushing each other to do the best we can. ... I think in everyone's opinion, Coach Bobo and us three, we're all tied right now."

Said Murray: "It's not going to be, you know, go out there and cut each other's throat off or anything like that. It's going to be ... nice friendly competition, and in the end the best guy is going to play."

Georgia returns starters at the other 10 positions on offense, but its three quarterbacks have thrown only 12 passes in college games -- all by Gray.

For all of their high school accolades -- all three were invited to the prestigious Elite 11 camp for the best-of-the-best quarterback prospects -- it is perilous for an SEC team to enter a season with so little experience at such a critical position.

"It's a difficult situation," Bobo said. "You never want to start a year when you've got an unknown at the quarterback position, but at the same time I look at it as a great opportunity for a bunch of young guys."

Coach Mark Richt said he's willing to declare a starter at the end of spring practice, which runs through the G-Day intrasquad game April 10, if one candidate separates himself convincingly. But Richt said it's more likely that the competition will continue into the summer.

His best advice for the candidates: "Have a healthy respect for the football."

Complicating the decision is that the quarterbacks won't be competing with the same weapons. Gray brings mobility. Mettenberger brings the big arm. Murray is a hybrid -- less mobile than Gray but more mobile than Mettenberger, not as strong-armed as Mettenberger but perhaps more accurate.

"Maybe you'd see exactly where everybody stood if we all had the tall [frame], strong arm [of Mettenberger] or were a fast guy like maybe me," Gray said. "I think ultimately the coaches are looking for who is going to be the most consistent, who's going to be a leader of this team, who's going to be able to provide playmaking skills that will help us win ballgames. Whether you get it done one way or the other way, whoever is getting it done best is going to be the guy."

The quarterbacks know their competition will be much-discussed and much-dissected throughout Bulldog Nation.

"Everyone is going to have their opinion," Murray said. "There's going to be ... people rooting for Zach or Logan to start with. You just can't let that affect [you]."

White, who admits partisanship for high school teammate Gray, sums up the competition well:

"Logan brings so much more to the table than sitting in the pocket. I think if you don't incorporate him carrying the ball and getting out on the edge every once in a while, you'd be doing him and our team a disservice.

"Mettenberger, if it was up to me, is a guy who would just sit back in the pocket all day. Because that's a guy who has just got a cannon.

"Murray is a little more of a balance between a pocket passer and someone who can break the pocket. He's obviously a very athletic guy.

"I think they all give us a good chance of winning. It's just [a matter of] which one the coaches feel gives us the best chance of winning."

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I'd be very surprised if Murray was not the starter. I understand the need to have Gray as another "arm" during spring, but I think he winds up at WR (or somewhere other than QB). I think the longer he delays the move, the further behind it's going to put him. He's too good of an athlete to just fair catch punts.

At the end of the day, I just want whoever is going to give us the best change to win and keep the turnovers to a minimum. With everything we're returning on offense, I'm hoping we won't have to depend on stellar QB play to win, just someone to effectively manage the game.

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So you guys are rooting for hype over substance? I mean if Mett demonstrates that he's a better fit for what Richt wants to do, you still want Murray to start because he's more hyped?

[/quote

It's not about rooting for a QB. Richt likes a mobile, accurate and strong armed QB to run his offense. Why shouldn't I hope Murray lives up to the hype?

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So you guys are rooting for hype over substance? I mean if Mett demonstrates that he's a better fit for what Richt wants to do, you still want Murray to start because he's more hyped?

Nope. I'm rooting for the best QB to win the job. I'm hoping for Murray to live up to the hype. If he does live up to the hype, he'll be the best QB.

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Nope. I'm rooting for the best QB to win the job. I'm hoping for Murray to live up to the hype. If he does live up to the hype, he'll be the best QB.

I think Murray could be great. Even if Mett is really good and goes on to have a pro career, I think Murray would be a better college QB. Mobility with accuracy is hard to defend in college even if the QB does not have a super arm. At the pro level, it's all about the arm and the accuracy- mobility does not mean much unless you're Vick. So if Murray is like David Greene + elusive (which I think he is), then he would be better than Mett at the college level (even if Mett comes close to being as good as Stafford). CMR is ding the right thing by making them compete. The last time that happened was between Greene and Shockley, and that turned out pretty good for us.

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I think Murray could be great. Even if Mett is really good and goes on to have a pro career, I think Murray would be a better college QB. Mobility with accuracy is hard to defend in college even if the QB does not have a super arm. At the pro level, it's all about the arm and the accuracy- mobility does not mean much unless you're Vick. So if Murray is like David Greene + elusive (which I think he is), then he would be better than Mett at the college level (even if Mett comes close to being as good as Stafford). CMR is ding the right thing by making them compete. The last time that happened was between Greene and Shockley, and that turned out pretty good for us.

Me too. I agree 100%. At this point, I'm more concerned with who is going to be the better college QB, not who has the better NFL upside. Besides, if something were to happen to Murray, I'd like to feel confident in Mett (or whoever) as the backup, that there wouldn't be a ton of dropoff.

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Me too. I agree 100%. At this point, I'm more concerned with who is going to be the better college QB, not who has the better NFL upside. Besides, if something were to happen to Murray, I'd like to feel confident in Mett (or whoever) as the backup, that there wouldn't be a ton of dropoff.

"At this point"? That should be your only concern at ANY point. But I don't know man, a lot of people think the loser of the QB battle is going to transfer.

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I think Murray could be great. Even if Mett is really good and goes on to have a pro career, I think Murray would be a better college QB. Mobility with accuracy is hard to defend in college even if the QB does not have a super arm. At the pro level, it's all about the arm and the accuracy- mobility does not mean much unless you're Vick. So if Murray is like David Greene + elusive (which I think he is), then he would be better than Mett at the college level (even if Mett comes close to being as good as Stafford). CMR is ding the right thing by making them compete. The last time that happened was between Greene and Shockley, and that turned out pretty good for us.

I know coach bobo and cmr will be very public and nice about there being a competition, but i haven't talked to someone close to the program who doesn't feel murray is the #1 guy in many players and coaches eyes. He also has a very strong arm and his mobility is something and his ability to lead among his other great attributes says to me he will be very very tough to beat. Logan is a great guy and I hope he can get some snaps during the season in garbage time. Mett is very talented. he has improved a ton since last year. People forget the offense he was in didn't become a passing offense til his last year. Mett's skill set is a perfect fit for this offense, but i just don't see him winning the competition.

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"At this point"? That should be your only concern at ANY point. But I don't know man, a lot of people think the loser of the QB battle is going to transfer.

I guess I didn't clarify enough... I meant I wouldn't be concerned about their NFL potential until they either graduate or declare early, down the road. Even then, I'm not really concerned per se, more interested to see where they go, how they'll do, etc... But yes, for as long as either Murray/Mett is our QB, my only concern is how they perform at UGA.

Wouldn't be surprised to see one of them transfer either. They're both talented enough to go elsewhere if they wanted and play, but it's hard to say. If Murray wins, his durability is still a question mark IMO. I think he'll be fine, but he has had 2 somehwat significant injuries in recent years. You've gotta think whoever is the backup, this fact is in the back of their mind that they could be in any time. Should be interesting either way...

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I guess I didn't clarify enough... I meant I wouldn't be concerned about their NFL potential until they either graduate or declare early, down the road. Even then, I'm not really concerned per se, more interested to see where they go, how they'll do, etc... But yes, for as long as either Murray/Mett is our QB, my only concern is how they perform at UGA.

Wouldn't be surprised to see one of them transfer either. They're both talented enough to go elsewhere if they wanted and play, but it's hard to say. If Murray wins, his durability is still a question mark IMO. I think he'll be fine, but he has had 2 somehwat significant injuries in recent years. You've gotta think whoever is the backup, this fact is in the back of their mind that they could be in any time. Should be interesting either way...

the chances of aaron murray transferring is much higher than mett imo.. logan won't go anywhere, it's too late for him. with mett's mom working at uga and his love for the dawgs it will be a few years if he does transfer and that's only IMO if he is lower than #2 on the depth chart.

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I know coach bobo and cmr will be very public and nice about there being a competition, but i haven't talked to someone close to the program who doesn't feel murray is the #1 guy in many players and coaches eyes. He also has a very strong arm and his mobility is something and his ability to lead among his other great attributes says to me he will be very very tough to beat. Logan is a great guy and I hope he can get some snaps during the season in garbage time. Mett is very talented. he has improved a ton since last year. People forget the offense he was in didn't become a passing offense til his last year. Mett's skill set is a perfect fit for this offense, but i just don't see him winning the competition.

How is Mett's skill set perfect for this offense? As you mentioned Murray's great attributes. His skill set is much more conducive to the Richt offense.

Edited by Bulldog80
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How is Mett's skill set perfect for this offense? As you mentioned Murray's great attributes. His skill set is much more conducive to the Richt offense.

Murray's skills set is much more of a match for a spread offense in my opinion. He's really short and mobile but has pinpoint accuracy and gets the ball out really fast.

Not saying he couldn't adapt to Richt's offense because he certainly can, but Mettenberger standing at 6'5 with a cannon for an arm seems a lot more built for an NFL style offense.

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How is Mett's skill set perfect for this offense? As you mentioned Murray's great attributes. His skill set is much more conducive to the Richt offense.

Both aaron and mett skill sets are both fine for the pro style system we run. Aaron has a very strong arm and he is a very good fit for this offense, but I think a 6'5 strong armed qb who is a true only pro style guy is a perfect fit. Now Aaron is plenty tall enough and I wasn't putting him down at all, but i am more talking about mett's skill set. The big difference is Aaron is more mobile and that is a big help to us so we can move him around some if we need to so he brings more to the qb position than what mett brings.

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Both aaron and mett skill sets are both fine for the pro style system we run. Aaron has a very strong arm and he is a very good fit for this offense, but I think a 6'5 strong armed qb who is a true only pro style guy is a perfect fit. Now Aaron is plenty tall enough and I wasn't putting him down at all, but i am more talking about mett's skill set. The big difference is Aaron is more mobile and that is a big help to us so we can move him around some if we need to so he brings more to the qb position than what mett brings.

Sac, inbox?

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How is Mett's skill set perfect for this offense? As you mentioned Murray's great attributes. His skill set is much more conducive to the Richt offense.

Murray reminds me of Charlie Ward, with a much stronger arm.

Mett reminds me of a taller Matthew Stafford.

Plus, CMR and Mike Bobo will mold their offense to fit the skills, not force the skills to fit the offense.

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Murray reminds me of Charlie Ward, with a much stronger arm.

Mett reminds me of a taller Matthew Stafford.

Plus, CMR and Mike Bobo will mold their offense to fit the skills, not force the skills to fit the offense.

murray has a much stronger arm and is very mobile as well.. good comparison.

imo aaron will be named the starter at the end of spring.. he would have been named in fall before, but due to mett's foolish decision there will not be a drawn out competition.

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