Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. Today we begin with the quarterbacks:
Returning players/stats: Aaron Murray, Sr. (14 starts in 2012, 249-386, 3,893 yards, 36 TD, 10 INT); Hutson Mason, Jr., (Redshirted in 2012); Parker Welch, Jr. (3-7, 39 yards, 1 TD); Christian LeMay, RSo. (1-2, 43 yards, 1 INT); Faton Bauta, RFr. (Redshirted in 2012)
Newcomers: Brice Ramsey, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 7 pro-style quarterback signee in 2013. Enrolled in January)
Key storyline: After passing for 10,091 yards in his first three seasons as Georgia’s starter, Murray is poised to break all of the SEC’s key career passing records as a senior. He is 1,437 yards away from former Bulldog David Greene’s SEC-high 11,528 career passing yards. With 696 completions, he is 199 away from Florida quarterback Chris Leak’s record of 895. With 1,131 attempts, Murray trails Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen’s SEC record by 383 passes. And with 95 touchdown passes, he is 19 behind Florida’s Danny Wuerffel’s 114.
Murray is also the FBS active career leader in touchdown passes and is fourth with a 158.55 career passer rating. He’s already the first SEC quarterback ever to pass for 3,000 yards in three straight seasons.
Breakout candidate: Considering that Murray has started all 41 games of his career and will enter the season as a Heisman Trophy candidate, there is no reason to expect a breakout player to emerge at quarterback this season. However, it will be worth watching the competition behind him over the next year as players jockey to become Murray’s replacement in 2014.
Reviewing 2012: Murray ranked second nationally in passing efficiency with a 174.82 passer rating and threw for 330 or more yards in four of the last eight games, including 427 yards and five touchdown passes -- both UGA bowl records -- in a Capital One Bowl win against Nebraska. His low-water marks were a 109-yard effort against South Carolina and a three-interception first half against Florida, but otherwise Murray enjoyed an outstanding season.
Walk-on Welch and LeMay played behind Murray in mop-up duty -- second-stringer Mason redshirted in order to establish a year between himself and Murray -- but neither player had much of an opportunity to distinguish himself. Welch passed LeMay on the depth chart after the freshman lost a fumble and threw a pick six against Florida Atlantic.
Projecting 2013: Murray has improved statistically -- and the Bulldogs’ win total has also increased -- in each of his three seasons as a starter. If he can continue that progress and cut back on his interception total a bit, he should rank among this season’s Heisman contenders throughout the fall. The key will be the first month of the season, when the Bulldogs face Clemson, South Carolina and LSU. Murray’s mediocre results against ranked opposition have been extensively covered, but he seemed to turn a corner in that regard late last season. The Bulldogs need him to be close to error free in the first month if they are to remain in SEC championship contention.