Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray finished the 2011 season in some good company after tossing a program record 35 touchdown passes in one season. Murray now is heading into his junior year and third straight year as a starter with the team, and it's looking like he might just be able to supplant himself within the top ranks of Georgia lore.
Fran Tarkenton, Buck Belue, Eric Zeier, Mike Bobo, Quincy Carter, David Greene, D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford never had such a passing performance during their tenures between the hedges as Murray did last year.
So where does Murray's legacy go from here? Well, the statistical machine that he was last fall plans on returning to 2012 even more mature, cognizant and physically prepared to continue success—and cut down on the 14 interception total that might have been a major factor in Georgia's 33-30 loss in the Outback Bowl against Michigan State.
Georgia heads into 2012 with head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham under new contracts, and expectations for this team are as high as they've been since the 2008 preseason when Georgia was ranked No. 1 in the country by the Associated Press.
Murray is a big reason why this team has so many expectations and the success of this team definitely is on his shoulders.
Here's an analysis of the entire Georgia quarterback position as we get closer to summer camp.
Arguably the owner of the strangest name on the team, aside from Bacarri Rambo, Faton Bauta is an interesting situation.
Bauta was not a big time recruit out of high school, registering 3-star scores by most pundits, but some might argue that evaluation stems from the fact he was more of a versatile and gadget quarterback than a polished, prototypical passer.
Despite that analysis, Bauta still managed to receive offers from the likes of Alabama and Georgia, and he committed to the Bulldogs.
Bauta has prototypical size at 6'2", 222 lbs., and he's been described by coaches as a poor man's Tim Tebow. Bauta successfully ran a spread option offense at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and he could easily see playing time out of exotic formations before his tenure is over in Athens.
Some have even speculated the durable and versatile athlete could settle in at fullback or have an H-back role in the offense as soon as this year.
Nevertheless, he's listed at quarterback and adds depth to a position that was very thin last year.
Hutson Mason was another guy that wasn't a big time recruit coming out of high school. In fact, the 6'3", 196 lbs. quarterback from Lassiter High School in Marietta looked to be heading to Central Michigan or another bottom-tier school as the recruiting process began to wind down in the summer of 2010.
Georgia was a late call to talk to Mason and eventually the two sides agreed to tie a knot. Mason was a record-breaking touchdown pass machine during his prep days, and he has proven in limited playing time to be more than capable of manning the controls.
For his two-year career at quarterback, Mason has completed 27-of-47 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns. His top performance was last year against New Mexico State when he completed 8-of-10 passes for 131 yards and a deep scoring strike to Chris Conley.
Mason was followed a year later by the commitment of one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Christian LeMay of Matthews, N.C.
LeMay has come on strong since his arrival in college which prompted Mason to consider transferring earlier this offseason. Mason did finally commit to another year in Athens and might even redshirt this year to give himself a better shot at competition in the future.
Christian LeMay committed to Georgia for the fall of 2011 as the heir-apparent to Murray, who only has two seasons left under his belt.
LeMay is ultra talented, smart, mechanically sound and mobile. At 6'2", 198 lbs., he's also the most prototypical sized quarterback on the roster. LeMay impressed fans in the G-Day game this Spring despite throwing an interception (which was a result from a hit-from-behind).
However, despite his inevitable future as the next big name on campus, LeMay might not see much of the field at all in 2012. There is a chance that if Aaron Murray goes down to injury that Mason sees action because of his experience. At the same time, however, a long term injury to Murray earlier in the year would likely prompt Mark Richt to throw LeMay in the fire to prepare for his future.
Nevertheless, expect LeMay to continue to grow and be a big time quarterback in a few seasons. With all of the young offensive talent Georgia continues to bring in, this guy could be just as good as Murray in the future.
Just two offseasons ago Aaron Murray was in a heated battle with two other quarterbacks for the right to be the head signal caller.
Murray escaped that competition at the top, thanks in part to the departure of Zach Mettenberger, who enters 2012 as the starting quarterback for top-ranked LSU.
From the get go, Murray showed all of the tools needed to be a top-tier SEC quarterback. After going through a few growing pains and a miserable 6-7 season as a freshman, Murray returned with flying colors last year to help the Bulldogs to a ten-game winning streak that allowed them to play for the SEC championship.
Interceptions, which totaled at 14 last year for Murray, need to go down. However, the incoming junior from Tampa managed to shatter a school record by tossing 35 touchdown passes in one season.
Murray's leadership, moxie, toughness and slew of highly underrated wide receivers could make for a very special season in 2012.
He's considered by most pundits to be one of the top quarterbacks in the country, along with the likes of Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Geno Smith (WVU) and Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech).
Don't be surprised if Murray earns All-American honors in 2012. The sky is the limit for him and his offensive production.
Give him two more strong years in Athens, and he may not only go down as one of the best—if not the best—quarterbacks in school history. He could even help bring Georgia a national title.
Other quarterbacks: No. 2, Parker Welch (RS Soph), No. 7, Greg Bingham (RS Soph)
2012 Position Grade: A-
Analysis: Georgia has two quarterbacks on the roster that will receive attention on a national level during their time as Bulldogs. Hutson Mason has given Georgia much more than they expected from a 3-star recruit and late signee. Aaron Murray is a stud at quarterback and has always put up better numbers than the likes of Matthew Stafford.
2013 Commitments: Brice Ramsey, Camden County High School. 4-star recruit. 6'3", 196 lbs.