Ten@10: Richt says ‘anything is possible’ regarding UGA’s quarterbacks

Georgia senior quarterback Hutson Mason threw his first two interceptions of the season on Saturday against Tennessee. But he continues to lead one of the SEC's top offenses. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia senior quarterback Hutson Mason threw his first two interceptions of the season on Saturday against Tennessee. But he continues to lead one of the SEC’s top offenses. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

THE TEN AT 10:

1. To be clear, there is not a quarterback controversy at Georgia and Hutson Mason is not about to lose his starting job. But coach Mark Richt did not summarily discount the notion that he might consider sending a sub into a game to run the Bulldogs’ offense.

“I think anything is possible,” said Richt, answering a question posed by a listener on his radio call-in show on Monday night. “I’m not going to sit here and start trying to tell the whole world what we’re going to do before we even talk to our players about how we’re going to rotate and things like that. But that’s been done before. There’s always a possibility of something like that.”

The Bulldogs famously alternated David Greene and D.J. Shockley for much of the three years they played together from 2002-04. But Shockley was a clear talent and less is known about Georgia’s secondary options behind Mason this year.

Brice Ramsey is a redshirt freshman from Camden County with a cannon of an arm but still-evolving mastery of the offensive system. He was first in the game against Troy. Faton Bauta is a redshirt sophomore who brings a tough-runner element to the position but is reputed to be a less-efficient passer. Neither would appear to be an obvious upgrade over Mason.

2. In the meantime, it’s not like Mason is stinking it up. While he did throw his first two interceptions of the season against Tennessee this past Saturday, overall he’s still playing pretty well. The fifth-year senior from Marietta is completing 69 percent of his passes for 566 yards and five touchdowns. And while his down-field passing abilities have been rightfully questioned, it’s not like he has stymied the offense. The No. 13-ranked Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 SEC) are averaging 45.2 points and 462.5 yards per game.

Mason was 16-of-25 for 147 yards and a touchdown and was sacked three times this past Saturday. But Richt said after the game that Georgia’s receiving corps is equally responsible for the struggles in the passing game and could resolve a lot of the issues by “creating some separation.” He believes some of that could be remedied with the returns this week of Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Jonathon Rumph.

Bottom line, Richt said, is fans need to trust that he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo are going to make the personnel decisions that will most benefit the Bulldogs.

“We watch practice every day; we’re in the meetings every day; we know what’s going on on a daily basis,” Richt said. “I’ve been coaching quarterbacks for 30 years. Bobo has been coaching them for a good long time as well. That’s not to say we’re perfect by any means, but we’re doing what we think is in the best interest of Georgia.”

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Todd Gurley had runs of 51, 26, 22 and 16 yards against Tennessee this past Saturday on the way garnering more offensive awards. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

3. The Bulldogs have quite a streak going as far as the SEC’s weekly awards go. They’ve played four games so far and they’ve had players earn a weekly conference accolade each time.

The latest recipient was, of course, Todd Gurley. The junior tailback was named the SEC’s offensive player of the week on Monday for his performance against Tennessee this past Saturday.

Gurley also split that award with Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill following the Bulldogs’ win over No. 16 Clemson after Week 1.  Senior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera  was named defensive player of week after South Carolina game and tailback Sony Michel was tabbed freshman player of the after Troy.

Georgia must be doing something right.

Of course, Gurley’s day against Tennessee made this latest mention fairly brainless. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound athlete posted a career-high 208 rushing yards on 28 carries (7.4 avg.) and two touchdowns.  His rushing total was the most by a Bulldog since 1992 when Garrison Hearst tallied 246 versus Vanderbilt, and the first to go over 200 since Verron Haynes went for 207 versus Georgia Tech in 2001.

Gurley accounted for 285 all-purpose yards (208 rushing, 30 receiving, 47 kickoff return), which ranks in a tie for third in school history.  He moved up to No. 2 in school history for career all-purpose yards now with 3,961, trailing only Herschel Walker (5,749). Also of note, Gurley had his 16th game with at least 100 yards rushing, tying him with Hearst at No. 2 in the school record books.  Gurley now has 33 rushing touchdowns in his career and is tied for third on Georgia’s all-time list with Hearst.

Gurley’s performance included hurdling a Volunteer defender on one play and surging for four yards on a 4th-and-3 situation to collect a first down and run out the clock in the fourth quarter on another.

Gurley also was named SEC freshman of the week three times in 2012 and earned the offensive player of the week distinction once in 2013.

Gurley made the Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll for the second time this season, too. The Hornung Award is given annually to the nation’s most versatile player in major college football.  Former Bulldog and current Philadelphia Eagle Brandon Boykin was awarded the 2011 Hornung Award.

Gurley also earned Hornung Award metion and Athlon honors and was named the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week following Georgia’s 45-21 win over #16 Clemson earlier this year. He also was named the CFPA National All-Purpose Performer of the Week and the National Kickoff Returner of the Week.

4. Speaking of Gurley, he’s a big reason Georgia is winning the fourth quarter so far this year. The Bulldogs have out-scored opponents 65-21 in the final frame over the course of the season. And though they were ultimately outpaced by Tennessee 15 to 14 in that period this past Saturday, they were able to make the winning plays they needed down the stretch to hold on for a 35-32 win.

Much of that has to do with how the Bulldogs are utilizing Gurley. He gained 129 of his 208 yards rushing on 12 carries in the fourth quarter. He had only four carries (for 14 yards) in the third quarter while freshman Nick Chubb (5-20) got the majority of the snaps.

Gurley had similar numbers in the fourth quarter against Clemson (4 for 107, 2 TDs) and in the second half against South Carolina (12-87-1).

“At the end of the day it’s going to be who’s strongest in the fourth quarter,” Gurley said. “That’s what we trained for this summer and that’s the way we practice. That’s why we have pads on four or five days a week.”

It's been a tough go in the SEC for new Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, but the Commodores are showing improvement. (AP photo)

It’s been a tough go in the SEC for new Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, but the Commodores are showing improvement. (AP photo)

5. About those Vanderbilt Commodores, just consider this a warning flare sent out ahead of Saturday’s homecoming game at Sanford Stadium: They are playing a whole lot better now than they were at the start of the season. You may recall them starting the season with back-to-back home losses to Temple and Ole Miss by the scores of 37-7 and 41-3, respectively. Well, since then, Vandy (1-4, 0-3) beat UMass and scared the daylights out of South Carolina before the Gamecocks pulled out a 48-34 in Nashville and scooted back to Columbia. This past weekend, the Commodores gave an upstart Kentucky team all it could handle en route to a 17-7 loss.

The point is, Vanderbilt is slowly starting to show some improvement under first-year coach Derek Mason. That often happens with teams under new direction. That’s not to say they’re ready to upset Georgia in Athens. But it is to say to steer clear of all these grandiose lines you see coming out on the game.

I’ll be talking this week to Adam Sparks, Vanderbilt beat writer for the Nashville Tennessean, and he’ll give us some more insights about what life after James Franklin is like for the Commodores.

6. Georgia opened as 33-point favorites over Vanderbilt in Las Vegas earlier this week and that line appears to have dropped only a half-point on average since then. The Bulldogs, you might recall, opened as 19-point favorites over Tennessee last week and that line was still 17 on Saturday. Georgia won 35-32.

As you might suspect, UGA players and coaches pay no attention at all to lines or pregame predictions. In fact, they work hard to avoid hearing anything about them, though it’s a virtual impossibility as they’re on campus every day.

“We don’t get into the numbers game,” senior cornerback Damian Swann said. “We don’t focus on how many points we’re supposed to win by. We’re not going out and try to win by a number of points. We’re going out to try to win a game. If it’s by a point or by 30 points, a ‘W’ is a ‘W’. And that’s what it’s all about. We want to go out and compete for four quarters and be the last team standing.”

7. Somewhat under the radar, J.J. Green got his first start as a defensive back for the Bulldogs this past Saturday. Green had entered the preseason as the first-string nickelback, but lost his job to freshman Dominick Sanders in camp and played only sparingly in the first three games.

But Green ended up starting at strong safety against Tennessee. By all accounts, he had a pretty good game. Sharing time with Quincy Mauger, Sheldon Dawson and Lucas Redd, Green had three tackles – including two solo stops – and generally took care of business.

“It was all right,” said Green, who started two games as a freshman tailback last season. “You get to play, you better go out there and execute. It was really exciting, but that first drive I probably screwed up a lot. But that goes with all the jitters and everything. As the game went on I think I got comfortable.”

Charles Mann returns to lead the Bulldogs at the point this season. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

Charles Mann returns to lead the Bulldogs at the point this season. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

8. Don’t look now but basketball practice begins this weekend. New NCAA rules allow teams to start earlier but have more breaks in between. So the Bulldogs, coming off a 20-14 season that included a second-place tie with Kentucky in the SEC, will hit the floor in their practice gym this Sunday.

They’ll have approximately a month to get ready for a Nov. 6 exhibition against Georgia Southwestern, followed by the season opener Nov. 14 at Georgia Tech. That will start an extremely challenging slate of non-conference games to close out the calendar year, including facing Gonzaga and Minnesota in the Preseason NIT in New York, Colorado and Seton Hall at home and Kansas State in Manhattan on New Year’s eve.

Coach Mark Fox scheduled “up” this season in anticipation of returning most of last year’s team. But they’ll have three returning starters rather than four after the dismissal of starting forward Brandon Morris. Morris, a 6-7 junior, was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession over the summer. He has since transferred to Cal State Bakersfield to play for former Georgia State and Ole Miss coach Rod Barnes.

9. Starters Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines and Marcus Thornton are back, along with primary backups Nemi Djurisic and Juwan Parker. They Bulldogs have welcomed in two front-line recruits in Yante Maten (6-8, 240) of Pontiac, Mich., and Osahen Iduwe (6-10, 235)of Nigeria.

The Bulldogs held open tryouts for walkons on Sept. 18. Current senior Taylor Echols, a 6-1 guard from McDonough, earned a spot on the roster and eventually scholarship through an open-call tryout.

10. This & that:  Georgia is a pretty banged up football team beyond losing Sony Michel to a shoulder injury against Tennessee. Swann broke his right thumb and is now having to play in a cast. Offensive linemen Kolton Houston and David Andrews both went out briefly with what’s thought to be minor leg injuries. Green suffered a deep-thigh bruise and had to come out of the game for a while. …  Georgia’s captains for Saturday’s homecoming game are the center Andrews and Gurley on offense, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins on defense and Swann for special teams. Swann saved the ball from going into the end zone that the Bulldogs downed on the 1 in the fourth quarter against Tennessee. …

It’s official: Wayne Montgomery won’t go undefeated for the Bulldogs this year. It was looking for a while like the freshman tennis player from South Africa would never lose in a Georgia uniform. He won the first two tournaments in which he competed and started out 10-0 in singles. But Montgomery was surprisingly bounced from the qualifying rounds of the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa http://www.itatennis.com/Events/ITANationalChampionships/MensAllAmerican.htm on Monday. He lost to Drake’s Ben Lott 6-1, 6-4. Montgomery rebounded with a 6-4, 7-6 victory over North Florida’s Jack Findel-Hawkins in a consolation match. … Ben Wagland also dropped a first-round match to Wake Forest’s Jonathon Ho, 7-6(4), 6-4. But junior Nick Wood won his opening round qualifying match Monday at the Case Tennis Center. Wood and a pair of UGA doubles teams — Eric Diaz-Nathan Pasha and Paul Oosterbaan-Wagland — will play in the qualifying draw on Tuesday. …

Who says Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets can’t get along? On Tuesday, Georgia’s Chris Kirk and Russell Henley will tee it up against Georgia Tech’s Roberto Castro and Cameron Tringale at the Atlanta Athletic Club in the inaugural Cohan Cup. The event is named in honor of former Tech golfer Adam Cohan, who was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago. His leukemia is in remission and he spends much of his time fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The winning team in the Cohan Cup takes home the hardware, not to mention bragging rights. But the real winner is LLS, for which the foursome has been raising money and to which all proceeds from the event will go.

 


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