June 12, 2012

Unfinished business

MACON - From an academic standpoint, Aaron Murray's college career is right on the track he hoped it would be.

Now, to make those football goals become a reality.

Entering his fourth year in the Georgia football program, Murray earned his Bachelor's in Industrial and Organizational Psychology this past semester, and if all goes well, expects to have his Masters in short order.

A Doctorate, well, that's down the road.

"I don't think I'll be Dr. Murray in the two years I have before I leave, but hopefully I'll have my Masters done and then take classes whenever I can to finish it up," said Murray. "I just love the field I'm working in."

So what does one do with a degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology?

"We just pretty much work with businesses and corporations, improving leadership, improving management relations and improving management engagement," Murray said during Tuesday's Pigskin Preview. "We did a huge project with UPS where we looked at over 300,000 surveys they sent us from all across the world. We analyzed the data and figured out ways they could improve their work relationships between their management and employees. Everyone wants happy employees. You don't want unhappy employees who hate their bosses, so we wanted to find ways to make that relationship better and in the end help that organization out."

Murray chuckled, realizing how similar in many ways his chosen field of study relates to being a quarterback for a team many expect to do great things this fall in the Southeastern Conference.

It's actually uncanny.

"The great thing is, I can relate a lot of the things I've learned in class to football," Murray said. "It's the same thing, as a quarterback you want to be able to lead your other players, your younger guys and build them up, so that's the same thing I'm trying to do here."

Unfortunately, when you're the quarterback, there are also times you can relate to the boss of a company with disgruntled employees - in this case, a few unhappy fans.

Despite passing for 3,149 yards and a Georgia single-season record 35 touchdowns, there are some who question whether or not Murray can "win the big game" or will ever lead the Bulldogs to a championship after committing 18 turnovers (14 picks, four fumbles) a season ago.

"In his defense, a couple of them were tipped balls and things of that nature, that maybe he couldn't totally control, but he knows that his job is crucial in regards to respecting and protecting the football," head coach Mark Richt said of last year's turnovers. "I think we all learn from our experiences."

But just in case, Richt hasn't been above reminding Murray just how important it is to do exactly that.

"We talked about that a little on the way down here. I was just asking the question - what are the three biggest drive-killers in football?" Richt said. "The first thing he said was turnovers, which was right. Shawn (Williams) helped him out by saying penalties, which was right, and the third one is missed assignments."

As the quarterback, Murray is primarily responsible for two of the three.

"If you don't turn the ball over, limit the penalties and line up correctly, you're going to move the ball. If you have a combination of those three, you're going to punt or you're going to turn the ball over, not score and make life miserable for everybody," Richt said. "Players can control all three of those for the most parts, so that's Murray's job to make sure we're not turning the ball over and not having a situation where we don't know what to do."

For his part, Murray is apparently doing everything to live up to lofty standards many have for the Tampa, Fla. native, some who expect nothing short of perfection.

"That's fine and I understand that," he said. "I want that for myself."

To accomplish that, there's one area of his game he admits needs to get better.

"My biggest area of improvement that I've been working on all season is my footwork. We've done a LOT of drills, watching film and trying to figure out things that I need to do. I definitely feel better about my footwork, staying on balance and moving around the pocket. That's something I have to continue doing all season."

Meanwhile, Murray says he's already been taking steps to ensure last year's mistakes are not repeated this fall.

The redshirt junior was one of approximately 30 Bulldogs who remained in Athens during May and Tuesday afternoon was scheduled to lead Georgia's first 7-on-7 workout, the first of many such practices he will run until preseason drills begin in August.

"With me, a lot of my mistakes had to do with me just not making subtle slides," he said. "Sometimes it's a little step to the left, little step to the right, up, back, to find an open window and avoid the defender, while all the time staying balanced and making an accurate throw."

That's something he intends to improve on in 2012. But that's a challenge he welcomes.

"Definitely," he said. "I know I've got to be the best leader that I can be and that means continuing to work hard and keep doing the things I need to do to prepare."