September 14, 2010

Murray will be given more freedom

After the loss to South Carolina, Georgia coach Mark Richt made the statement that he planned to open up the playbook for quarterback Aaron Murray.

Tuesday, Richt confirmed that's still the plan.

When the Bulldogs host 12th-ranked Arkansas Saturday (12:01 p.m, ESPN) at Sanford Stadium, Georgia will be just one year removed from last season's 52-41 shootout in Fayetteville against Razorback quarterback Ryan Mallett.

In that game, former Bulldog quarterback Joe Cox tied the school record with five touchdown passes while passing for a career-high 375 yards.

Richt isn't predicting those same kind of numbers for Murray, but he made this clear - the Tampa native will have more opportunities than he's had in Georgia's first two contests this year.

"We have to let him shoot a little bit more than we have lately. Can Murray match Mallett? I don't know about that. Of course, Joe Cox had a heck of a game last year and no one would have predicted that, especially after we played Oklahoma State and didn't have much offensive production that day," Richt said. "Then it kind of flooded. I don't know what's going to happen. We could predict shootouts and it becomes a real close game, a low-scoring game. It's just so hard to tell. I know that when you play good teams, you tend to not have as much offense or not as many stats. It tends to make both teams look maybe not as good as they might have looked in their openers, but they do have the ability to be truly explosive on offense. I'm not sure we've proved that yet this year."

Last week against South Carolina, Georgia managed just 253 total yards with just 61 of that coming on the ground.

Murray, meanwhile, was 14-of-21 for 192 yards and did not throw an interception. If last year's game is indication, Murray better make sure his right arm is ready to go.

"I hope that it's not a shootout and I hope our defense stops them. I hope it's the same for our offense as last year, but again, I hope our defense stops them this year," Murray said. "I think Coach Bobo will make sure that we're prepared for everything. I think, me personally, I'll be prepared and work extra hard this week to make sure that we don't go 0-2 in the SEC."

Richt said he and Bobo have taken great care to make sure Murray hasn't been overwhelmed his first two games.

Statistically, there hasn't been much room for complaints.

In the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette, Murray completed passes to nine different receivers going 17-for-26 for 160 yards with one interception and followed that up with last week's 14-of-21 performance for 192 yards against the Gamecocks.

"I think Aaron has really done well. Coach Bobo and I are kind of double-teaming him. We watch everything he does, and he knows that. We've tried to not strangle him and not let him do anything. We just basically want him to create some habits that will carry him throughout his entire career, the ball handling, the footwork," Richt said. "Something as simple as hit your spot and get up in the pocket. If you don't hit the spot and then retreat a little more, then all of a sudden the edge pressure gets you. Don't try to spin out and try to make plays. You have to move up in the pocket and then out. We're trying to teach him those things, and also if you do cross the line of scrimmage, don't feel like you have to take somebody on physically like you might have in high school and knock somebody back."

Richt said there was never a timetable on when he and Bobo would open up more of the playbook to Murray.

But based on his performance last week in Columbia, the timing now appears right.

"I didn't know if it would be Week 3 or not. If you give a guy too much too soon and then if he fails miserably in his own mind even, if he makes a mistake that costs you the game, sometimes for a brand new guy that's hard to overcome, the pressure of that," Richt said. "You talk about it in recruiting; can a guy hit his target? Can he make good decisions and I always say can he handle the pressure of the job? There is pressure to that job. So far he's handled that pressure of the job very well. Sometimes that pressure could overwhelm a guy if he starts out real poorly and it's hard to recover. It's hard to lose the confidence and then build it back up. It's better to kind of take it slow and gradually get to the point where you can handle it.

"Is he ready for everything that can come down the pipe? Probably not. And will he make mistakes as we go? There is no doubt that he will. But I think he'll be able to handle the fact that, 'Hey I made a mistake. I'm going to be able to shake it off and let's go play and do better.' I think that's really kind of where we are at with Aaron."

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