April 10, 2010

Where do quarterbacks stand now?

Anybody wanting clarity regarding the race to determine Georgia's starting quarterback likely left Sanford Stadium a little disappointed Saturday afternoon.

Many have assumed that redshirt freshman Aaron Murray[/b] was the most likely candidate to replace the graduated Joe Cox, but after Zach Mettenberger's brilliant performance at G-Day, some are wondering if that will actually be the case.

Even head coach [db]Mark Richt appears quite a bit unsure of what will eventually happen.

"I know everybody wants to know who the starter is and I couldn't name a starter right now if I wanted to. I really don't think I could," Richt said. "But like I said, we'll at least give the pecking order where we think everybody is and go from there."

Mettenberger - who is suspended for the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette - certainly didn't hurt his cause.

The redshirt freshman completed 6 of 10 passes for 150 yards and two scores on throws of 20 yards to Rhett McGowan and 39 yards to Arthur Lynch, while Murray completed 9 of 18 for 96 yards with one interception.

Logan Gray, meanwhile, was just about as impressive as Mettenberger after he completed 7 of the 13 passes he threw for 102 yards and a one touchdown. Gray's first pass of the day went for 23 yards to wideout Tavarres King.

"Anytime you're in a scrimmage or a practice and you start off well it helps to get your confidence and it can help create a good rhythm," Gray said. "I was happy for that, but as a quarterback you can't be too high or too low on any particular play."

Mettenberger was not made available for comment as Richt does not allow suspended players to be interviewed.

However, wide receivers Kris Durham and A.J. Green had plenty to say.

"It was definitely a good scrimmage for him (Mettenberger). He's definitely stepped up," Durham said. "All the quarterbacks did what they could do even though we didn't have the whole playbook in."

Green was asked if he had a preference on who opened at quarterback next fall.

"I don't care, whoever gets the ball out there," he said.

However, when pressed further, Green seemed to sing a different tune.

"Aaron takes coaching more seriously than Zach and Logan, I feel like," Green said. "I feel he (Murray) can step up and be a real leader."

It will still be at least a week before Green, his teammates and the Bulldog Nation will learn what Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo ultimately have in mind.

Richt and his assistants will conduct exit reviews for all the players, including quarterbacks, before releasing a post-spring depth chart.

"Zach had a great day, but in the end it's not the fans that are making the decision, it's the coaches," Murray said. "It what they see and who they think is going to be the guy. You can't worry about all the people talking. As the quarterback, they're going to talk about whoever gets the starting job. Throughout the year, there's going to be criticism here, criticism there, but you can't worry about that. You've got to worry about your game and just trust the coaches.
"All you can do is to have fun, play hard and leave it up to the coaches to deal with all the politics and all the fans."

Richt said there are a lot of questions that still need to be answered.

"The things I'm looking for in a quarterback is: Can he hit his target? Can he process all the information that he has to process? Can he handle the job?" Richt said. "This is just the beginning of feeling the pressure of the job. Everybody's got a microscope on what's going on and they've got to learn to deal with that sort of pressure. When we get into the fall that pressure is going to intensify and then somebody is going to get to start and we'll see if he can handle that. We'll get to see if a guy can handle not being first team and how is he going to react to that. There's a lot to learn yet."

Unfortunately, Richt said, some of those answers may not be known until the season actually begins.

Because quarterbacks aren't allowed to get hit, Richt conceded he won't get a true reading on how well Murray and Mettenberger can handle aspects of the position like taking a hit or how they move around in the pocket under pressure to avoid hits before making throws.

"If you'll remember in 2001, the first year, we had David Greene and Cory Phillips and we were trying to decide who would start and we weren't sure. But we went into that first ball game and allowed them both to play some to gauge who should start," Richt said. "Greene had the lead going in and he did nothing but prove he was probably the right guy for the job. I'm not saying it will go down that far. I would really like to have it made prior to that than say hey, we're going to play two guys. I doubt we'd go in there saying we're going to play three, but of course in the first game we can't do that anyway with Zach's situation."

Whoever wins the starting job, Richt feels the Bulldogs' offense will be in good hands.

"It's been a good competition, it really has been. The good news is that guys have played well. At least the unofficial official stats in the other scrimmages showed that guys were hitting their targets, they were hitting a high percentage of their passes and that was happening most of the spring," Richt said. "There were very few interceptions, very few bad decisions and it's been a good competition. I believe we've got players who can get it done."

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