August 31, 2010

Murray talks about opening day 'nerves'

Yes, Aaron Murray admits it. He's going to "amped up" when he takes his first snap in Saturday's season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

After all, not only will it be Murray's first career start as the Georgia quarterback, but it will be his first collegiate game.

Who wouldn't feel a butterfly or too?

"I wouldn't say nervous, probably just a little juiced up. I get really excited, really pumped up," Murray said. "It probably would be a good thing if I was on defense because I'd try to take someone's head off but offensively, especially at quarterback, you probably need to be a little mellow. Yeah, I get pretty juiced up and pretty amped up, so I don't think it's necessarily nerves. I'm just excited about the start."

Murray laughed that he's already got a backup plan if his nerves start getting the better of him.

"I'll probably listen to something mellow, a slow jam, some country music," the Tampa native joked. "There won't be any Eminem or rock songs where I'd get too pumped up. No, once I get to warm up, take it all in, see the fans, I'll be OK and it will be time to play some football."

Head coach Mark Richt said he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have taken specific steps to ensure Murray gets off to a good start.

That includes not expecting him to be able to execute the entire offensive package right from the beginning.

"What I've learned is that you are better off starting slow and you are better off starting with a smaller package and repping him over and over and over with this smaller package. And then hopefully he'll have success and you can kind of grow as you go," Richt said. "That's what I've learned and tried to help him understand. Most of these guys were pretty good playmakers in high school. They are used to being the guy making plays. Sometimes they feel like every time the ball is snapped they have to make a play, you have to do something spectacular."

In other words, Richt simply wants his redshirt freshman to play within himself and eliminate mistakes the best that he can.

Basically, he simply wants Murray to play smart, turnover-free football.

"Aaron is a pretty mobile kid, and who knows how many times he created and scrambled and made plays. That's kind of what he's used to. He has to understand that you have to trust your feet. When I say trust your feet, when we drop in the pocket, when you hit that back foot in the ground you are looking at a first progression," Richt said. "When you hitch once you are looking at your second, and when you hitch third you are checking it down or you are starting in scramble mode or you are throwing it away. It's not going to be like every play I'm going to ad lib and do all these great things. You just have to understand, you don't have to be the hero. You just have to run this system, and what we have to understand is that no matter how much he knows, he's going to be going through some things for the first time and we have to help him."

Murray said won't be taking any unnecessary chances, although that doesn't mean he will be scared to run the ball.

He just needs to use common sense.

"Coaches are fine with me making plays with my legs but they also tell me there's nothing wrong with sliding, to take a knee or step out of bounds," Murray said. "They tell me to take what you can and be safe. There's no reason to take any unnecessary risks."

But as Richt stressed during Tuesday's press conference, the Bulldog Nation will need to be patient with Murray.

Young quarterbacks make mistakes. It's going to happen.

Take Georgia's recent practice game last Wednesday at Sanford Stadium.

"We were in long field goal range, but we were in range. We had a third down play, and it was a screen. The defense smelled it out and they were ready to defend it. (Murray) could have thrown the ball at his feet and been incomplete and been in field goal range, but he knew he shouldn't throw it directly to the guy because he'd have trouble, but he decided to begin a scramble and got sacked for about eight or nine yards," Richt said. "We were out of field goal range and had to punt. We might have lost three points right there. Later on we had a third down inside the 10, and the scout team actually brought a different look than we thought we were going to see and he made a good decision not to throw it into coverage, but he began to scramble and he was out of the pocket. All he had to do was throw it over their head, and he chose to try to spit one in there. It was not an interception, but it should have been intercepted."

"There was a possibility of losing 10 points on two decisions in that game. We've been practicing 20-something days and all of last spring. You have to live it out. That was probably more meaningful to him than anything you can say in a pass skeleton drill or even an 11-on-11 drill. It was closer to a real game, and I think it hopefully resonated with him more than what we would say in a meeting."

Murray said that it did.

Although there's a big part of him that wants to try and make a big play every time he handles the football, Murray knows for the team to be successful he needs to play smart.

"I'm continuing to learn every day and that's the goal. To practice hard, make plays then go back that night and watch film with the coaches and make improvements. I know I'm not going to be perfect, there's going to be things to work on, there's going to be an open receiver that you might miss or this and that," he said. "The one thing you can do is go back and learn and I think I've learned a lot from this camp, spring and summer and I've learned what things I can and can't do. I think I've been through pretty much every situation. I feel comfortable. I've really taken Coach Bobo's and Coach Richt's advice. As long as I continue to take the right steps I think I'll be successful in the end."

Wide receiver Kris Durham said there's nothing wrong with Murray's technique and actually gives him a glowing critique.

As a former roommate of quarterback Matthew Stafford, Durham said there's already parts of Murray's game that are already on par with the current Detroit Lion QB.

"He's got a touch that I didn't even see from Matthew when he was here. He's probably a better deep ball thrower than Matthew," Durham said. "On short routes, Matthew might knock you down, Aaron will put it on the money."

Richt would rather not make such comparisons.

Unfortunately for him, it's already begun.

Already, some have queried whether Murray will enjoy the same type of success as another former redshirt did under Richt - David Greene.

"Greene was really the only one who kind of went through it unscathed or close to being unscathed. Greene was very, very disciplined in what he did. Greene created a lot of great habits as a redshirt freshman in that spring and fall," Richt said. "He rarely did the heroic thing or sometimes the boneheaded thing, where Stafford, he wanted to make plays. He was about making plays. He was about wanting to do great things and guys with that kind of arm strength and that kind of ability, they can't help themselves sometimes."

Take Stafford's freshman campaign, for example.

Blessed with one of the strongest arms ever for a quarterback at Georgia, Stafford would often try to make something happen and mistakes were often the result.

" We struggled with Stafford because we turned the ball over a bunch with him. At the end of the year when we quit turning it over, we won. We beat a No. 5 Auburn at Auburn, and I guess we beat Georgia Tech and we beat Virginia Tech, who had the No. 1 defense in the country that year. He finally just quit trying to be that hero," Richt said. "We struggled with Matthew as the starting quarterback as a freshman and we struggled a little bit less with Greene because of the decisions those guys made."

Where will Murray fall into the discussion?

Time will tell. He's just ready to find out for himself, amped up or not.

"If you're not nervous, amped up to go play, that's what makes football, football. That's what makes it exciting to go out there and play," Murray said. "It's the excitement that you've worked since January getting ready for this game, now it's here, it's time to hit somebody in another jersey instead of wailing on your guys. To see a different defense other than our defense is exciting. If you're not excited, you ought to not be playing."

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