It didn’t take long for Georgia coach Mark Richt to realize how special quarterback Aaron Murray could be.
Murray’s exceptional work ethic and tremendous knowledge of the game impressed Richt during the recruiting process, but it was the way Murray immediately jumped at the chance to be the quarterback for the Bulldogs that let Richt know Murray was a different breed.
“I’m very thankful to have him,” Richt said. “From the minute he got on campus he’s been preparing to be the starting quarterback at Georgia.”
That meant extra hours in the film room and additional time before and after practice working on the little things, such as footwork and his throwing technique -- and this was all while he was on the scout team during his freshman year.
Sitting and watching as Joe Cox piloted an 8-5 season that culminated with a 44-20 win over Texas A&M in the Independence Bowl, Murray was always learning and stealing tips here and there.
When Murray’s chance to be the starter arrived in 2010, he did better than most freshmen who are given the reins to an SEC team would. Though he stumbled through a 6-7 season that included a 1-4 start, Murray finished the year with 3,049 yards with 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions on 209-of-342 passing. He was selected to the SEC coaches' All-Freshman Team and was named the Bulldogs' Most Valuable Offensive Player and Newcomer of the Year for offense.
The sub-par record might overshadow Murray’s statistical achievements during his first year, which is why Richt said his quarterback came into spring with even more commitment to tweaking his game as he looks to thrust Georgia back into the thick of the SEC East title race.
“He’s the kind of guy who is very resulted-oriented,” Richt said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to get prepared.”
That means putting in time alone and with others, Richt said.
Murray worked on his pocket presence this spring. Known to bounce around in order to make plays as a freshman, Murray concentrated on extending the play from inside the pocket this spring. As he gets more comfortable with Georgia’s offensive system, he’s learning to better anticipate where to locate his passes and where his receivers will be on plays, which helps him put better touch on the ball as well.
Having steadier feet and not feeling the pressure of throwing on the run has Murray adding a much-improved deep ball to his passing arsenal.
Murray exited Georgia’s spring with an 18-10 victory for the Black team over the Red, throwing for 122 yards and a touchdown in the process.
Now, Richt said Murray’s next step in his continued maturation is developing into more of a leader during the offseason and continuing to work on the little things that will make a big difference.
From what Richt has seen from Murray in the last year, there doesn’t seem like much to worry about.
“He loves to prepare to be great,” he said. “There’s not one guy on our team that would look at Aaron and say this guy isn’t paying the price for us to have a shot at becoming the Eastern Division champion.”