Preseason all-conference teams, even the ones selected by coaches, have to be taken for what they’re worth. No matter who picks it’s a guessing game based mainly on past performance.
But when SEC coaches project Georgia’s Aaron Murray as the league’s top quarterback in 2013, it’s a real attention-getter. There are, after all, a couple of other quarterbacks in the conference who have had their share of success. Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, who was tabbed the third-team all-conference quarterback by the SEC coaches Thursday, has led his team to the past two BCS championships. Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, second team, won the Heisman Trophy in December as a redshirt freshman.
But Murray was selected first-team All-SEC.
“He’d be my pick,” Georgia offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo said. “He’s my guy, and I wouldn’t trade him for anybody in the league or in the country. So I’m glad he’s on our football team.”
Even if you take national awards and championships out of the equation, there remains a good statistical argument for all three players. McCarron is the most efficient passer with a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season (30 touchdowns, three interceptions) and about 6-to-1 for his career (49-8). Manziel is the most dynamic playmaker, getting it done with his legs (1,410 rushing, 21 touchdowns) as well as his arm (3,706 passing, 26 touchdowns).
Murray generally has been the best overall passer. His career passer rating of 158.5 is one-tenth below McCarron’s, but with an extra season as a starter. And the Bulldogs’ passing game is more vertical and less controlled than the one McCarron operates with the Crimson Tide.
And Murray has done it consistently over time. He has a chance to become the third player in FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards in four consecutive seasons and is 20 touchdown passes from surpassing Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel as the SEC’s career leader in touchdown passes (114).
Eight make coaches’ team: Georgia’s eight All-SEC players represented on the three teams picked by the coaches were tied for second-most in the conference. Alabama had 16 while LSU also had eight.
Joining Murray on the first team were tailback Todd Gurley and tight end Arthur Lynch. Right guard Chris Burnette, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins and cornerback Damian Swann made second team, and tailback Keith Marshall and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell were on the third team.
In the secondary: As safeties Tray Matthews (hamstring), Corey Moore (knee) and Shaquille Fluker (illness) remained sidelined for Thursday’s “situational scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham continued to be vague about how the Bulldogs might line up against Clemson on Aug. 31.
“I think those guys are continuing to get healthy,” he said. “We’ll just continue to treat them and get them out there when we can. All I can go by is today, and everybody was getting a little better. Hopefully we can get some reps with those guys. … I’m not counting anybody out.”
Grantham mentioned senior Connor Norman and freshman Quincy Mauger as players who are working at safety along with sophomore Josh Harvey-Clemons, who is suspended for opener.
“Hey, we’ve got the guys we’ve got,” he said. “They’ve just got to understand the game plan and where their help is.”
Offense set: With the exception of a couple of battles on the line, Georgia’s offensive lineup is pretty well set for the Clemson game. There remains a good competition to start between John Theus and Kolton Houston at right tackle, but both are going to play and be a part of a rotation with Chris Burnette at right guard. Including backups Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler, eight linemen are ready to play, assistant coach Will Friend said.
The only real unknowns at this point are who might be the No. 3 tailback and the No. 3 quarterback. Based on playing time during Wednesday night’s practice game, it would appear to be freshmen J.J. Green and Brice Ramsey, respectively. The two were teammates at Camden County High last year.
Bobo was not ready to discuss depth charts Thursday. “Murray and Gurley will start,” he said with a laugh. “The other nine, we’ll have to see what personnel group we’re in.”
Injury report: Two new names were on the latest injury report — fullback Merritt Hall (neck) and wideout Tramel Terry (knee bruise). Others still on the list include tailback Brendan Douglas (knee), wideout Jonathan Rumph (hamstring) and wideout Blake Tibbs (lumbar bruise).