For all the talk about Georgia's depth at nearly every position, none is perhaps deeper than quarterback, and, beginning next January, it is going to be a lot deeper. That is when high school prospects Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger plan to enroll at the university, and, if everything goes as planned, they will increase the number of scholarship signal callers at Mark Richt's disposal to five.
By that time, Matthew Stafford and Joe Cox will be seniors with Logan Gray a couple of years behind as a sophomore. So long as those three stay healthy, there is little reason to believe that Murray or Mettenberger will play in 2009, which could set the stage for stiff competition for the starting job in spring camp 2010.
That might sound a bit confusing with so many names and dates going out nearly two years, but to some, what is equally confusing is why a top rated quarterback such as Murray would select UGA as his college destination with so many players and so much time between him and stepping between the hedges on gameday.
"The thing I liked best was definitely the coaching staff. They are very down to Earth," said Murray. "I've been to many college campuses and talked to college coaches, but [Georgia's] coaches are different. . . . They wanted to know me as a person and to see what kind of person I am. . . . I also know that these coaches are looking out for my best interest."
While statements like that sound like typical player hyperbole, Murray's affection for the coaches in Athens was strong enough to pull him out of the state of Florida, where he was the Gator's top quarterback target, but also away from early favorite LSU and scholarship offers from schools from Southern Cal to South Carolina.
Being rated the fourth-best quarterback prospect by Rivals.com, having the aforementioned laundry list of scholarship offers, and being verbally committed to Georgia, Murray has nothing left to prove at the high school level to increase his stock. Still, he continues to participate in football camps and combines. Last week, he was in Athens for one of Mark Richt's football camps, and by all accounts he was the most impressive quarterback on the scene.
"It was a great trip to Athens, and it was the first time that I got to get around the town," said Murray. "I really had a chance to go around with my family, check out the town, and check out the facilities to know what life is like up there. I had a great time and got to sit down and talk with the coaches a little bit and work with coach Mike Bobo at the camp. I considered it a really, really good couple of days."
On the field, Murray had a chance to work out with some of the top receiver prospects for the Class of 2010. He hopes that the time he spends with these rising juniors will help him aid the UGA coaches in reeling them in as future teammates.
A little closer to home, fellow Plant High School player Orson Charles was also at the camp, but Murray is careful when talking about Georgia so as to allow Charles to make his decision without jeopardizing their friendship.
"We joke about the whole thing," said Murray. "I say, 'You going to commit to Georgia yet?'"
"He and I are really close, and he's a tremendous player. I am 100 percent behind him [going to] Georgia, but if not, then I am still going to root for him. He is still going to be my receiver next year, and he is still going to get all the touchdowns. Hopefully, he will be a Bulldog with me, but if not I'm just going to root for him no matter what."
In the meantime, Murray has plans to keep going to camps this summer. One of those stops will be with Mettenberger when the two travel to the Elite 11 camp in California in late July. The reason Murray and Mettenberger keep going to these camps despite having many scholarship offers and already being committed to Georgia is simple, and it is something that only stands to increase when they arrive in Athens: competition.
"He wants to impress the coaches. He wants to learn the system. He wants to see how things are going to be when he is playing under coach Bobo," said State of Georgia recruiting analyst Chad Simmons. "Mettenberger attended about 50 percent of Georgia's spring practices trying to learn the system, learn the checks, learn the playbook, and learn as much as he could. Murray wants to know how Bobo's going to teach him, and he wants to get to see the same things as Mettenberger."
"There is no doubt what Aaron brings to the table. He is a pro-style quarterback, but he is unlike many pro-style quarterbacks in that he has very good mobility. He is not limited in that area, so that's only going to add to his ability to be a great quarterback because it is going to allow him to buy more time for plays if they break down."
Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every
"What I see is a competitive kid who can guarantee coaches that he will not stop trying to get better," said Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every. "Coaches want competitive kids."
Every, who worked in the recruiting offices of Mack Brown at North Carolina and Bobby Bowden at Florida State before moving to Athens as part of Mark Richt's staff at Georgia in 2001, knows what he is talking about, and he knows how important these camps are in the eyes of the coaches. He adds that top rated prospects that rest on their laurels and choose not to participate in these camps are doing themselves a disservice.
"When kids go to these camps and they don't perform, they just sit there and watch, it hurts them," Every continued. "The coaches do hold that against the kids because they want to see how competitive a kid is. Even if he does not do so well they want to see how he bounces back, they want to see if he just mopes, or does he bounce back and give it his all--especially with defensive backs.
"What if they get beat? Do they have short-term memories where it does not matter? Are they are right back out there talking smack and being the best they can be? The coaches want these kids to go to these things."
Another thing that Murray is trying to show college coaches is that his height is not a liability. He is the only prospect in the top ten of Rivals.com's quarterback rankings under 6-foot-2 and one of just three six-footers in the top 25.
"I think of Chase Daniel and Drew Breeze as a couple quarterbacks that come to mind," said Every on the size issue. "They were/are successful passers, but the thing that Murray has, again, is the mobility to where if there is no passing lane he could create a passing lane with his feet. Usually the knock on quarterbacks that are shorter in the arm strength, be he easily has one of the top five-to-eight in arm strength in the country.
"His being six-foot tall is a moot point. Granted the linemen are going to be taller in college football, and finding those passing lanes is going to be even more important. I don't know if that means he is going to be in the shotgun a little more than a tall quarterback, or if that means he is going to have to roll out more. We will just have to wait until he gets there to see how it all pans out."