Replacing Murray: Mark Richt expects smooth transition for Hutson Mason
It’s always an annual challenge trying to replace an impact player, but in the SEC, coaches are paid to recruit and develop the next standout athlete in fear of the impending hot seat should seasons turn sour.
Over a two-week period, we’ll take a look at a key player loss for each program in the conference and break down that position’s potential replacements. Rest assured, a few of these guys will be household names by season’s end.
- SOUTH CAROLINA
- TODAY: Georgia
- Saturday: Ole Miss
- Sunday: Kentucky
- Monday: Texas A&M
- Tuesday: Vanderbilt
- Aug. 13: Alabama
- Aug. 14: Florida
- Aug. 15: Missouri
- Aug. 16: Mississippi St.
- Aug. 17: Tennessee
- Aug. 18: LSU
Even if Georgia coach Mark Richt was worried about his quarterback situation heading into the 2014 season, we probably wouldn’t know it.
If there’s one coach in the SEC East who has always publicly exuded confidence in his players, it’s Richt.
And after saying goodbye to record-setting passer Aaron Murray, he’s optimistic fifth-year senior Hutson Mason channels a campaign of similar success to that of D.J. Shockley, a former veteran replacement quarterback who directed Georgia to its last SEC Championship in 2005.
“We were picked fourth or fifth in the East in 2005 when David Greene left because people thought there would be a drop off at quarterback,” Richt said at SEC Media Days in July. “When D.J. came in, he played great. Now, Murray is leaving, people probably think it’s going to drop off. D.J. gave us a quarterback situation that was SEC‑championship caliber. I’m hoping the same with Hutson.”
Mason and Shockley are totally different players in terms of style, but each had a firm grasp of the offense stepping into their final fall camp, working alongside quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo throughout their multi-year stint as second-teamers.
In 13 career games, Mason has thrown for 1,324 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions. After taking over for Murray the final 2.5 games last fall, Mason completed 56-of-94 passes for 808 yards and four scores.
Georgia’s offense wasn’t limited and Mason appeared comfortable from the pocket.
“I think we’ll transition well,” Richt said.
Georgia’s group of wide receivers, a unit riddled with injuries last season, trust Mason will handle the job as well as his predecessor.
“I don’t think there will be a drop off with Hutson,” senior flanker Chris Conley said during the player session in Hoover. “Hutson is a big guy who anticipates where the ball needs to go and he’ll throw before a receiver is open. He has a lot of zip on his passes and he has a lot of touch.”
The Bulldogs will know early just how smooth a transition Mason can make with games against Clemson and a road trip to Williams-Brice Stadium at South Carolina, a venue where Murray never won.
If Mason can’t find a rhythm, there’s always the Todd Gurley plan.