In years past, SEC football has been defined by tough-as-nails defense. That has begun to change, however, as the offenses in the Southeast have become some of the best in the college game.
A major part of the offensive growth has been an influx of talented quarterbacks. Aaron Murray is one of those, and heading into 2013, he is the conference's best quarterback.
Over the past six years, three Heisman winners have played quarterback in the SEC, solidifying the conference's shift in focus.
Aaron Murray has the talent and surrounding cast to make his case for the Heisman. After three years in the Georgia system, that could happen this fall.
Looking at the SEC quarterbacks who will start in Week 1, a noticeable factor missing is experience.
Big-name players such as Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron are the obvious incumbents, but there are a number of programs still searching for a starting quarterback. A few teams even have a former starter that may take a seat on the bench this fall.
Quarterback play is crucial to the survival of an offense. And without experience in the pocket, it is tough for an offense to perform consistently.
Murray will be entering his fourth year as as starter. He has started 41 games in his career, making him one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the country this fall. In each of his previous three seasons, he has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 20 or more touchdowns.
This chart shows a comparison between AJ McCarron—Alabama’s starting quarterback—and Murray. Both have played since 2010, but keep in mind McCarron has only started two seasons for the Tide.
Still, it is clear to see the major difference between the two in yards produced. Murray’s numbers are marked by red, McCarron’s in black.
Murray is a seasoned quarterback who has competed against the best the country has to offer. Expect him to put it all together this fall and use his experience to become a complete and unbeatable quarterback.
Strong Surrounding Cast
Heading into 2013, Georgia has a load of talent that will help Murray take this offense to the next level.
Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall showed last year that they have the talent to shred SEC defenses, and the offensive line protecting Murray may be the best unit that he has ever played behind.
This fall the Bulldogs return three seniors and a junior along the line, as well as returning starter and rising sophomore John Theus at tackle. Add in the return of wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett and this offensive unit is one of the top in the country, not just the conference.
Bennett is coming off an ACL injury. Prior to that setback in October (h/t ESPN), he was leading the Bulldogs in receptions and yards. He is one of Murray's favorite targets.
Two other receivers to watch are Chris Conley and Justin Scott Wesley. Conley has a knack for making plays, and Wesley is a burner who tears up the track in the offseason.
Add in the sure-handed Jay Rome at tight end and the Bulldogs have an all-star cast surrounding Murray.
Quarterbacks can make or break an offense, but without a strong surrounding cast there is no chance a signal-caller will thrive. Murray has the support he needs to be the conference's best QB.
Knows Big Games
Murray experienced a baptism by fire his freshman season. The Bulldogs struggled, and Murray was mediocre.
By 2011, however, the Bulldogs were winning 10 games and challenging for a SEC Eastern Division title. By 2012, Murray was guiding his team against Alabama in the SEC title game. And last season, he was four yards away from making a run at the national title.
Murray is experienced in big games, and this year it will all come together. In years past, minor mistakes ended title runs, but those mistakes won’t be repeated by this rising senior.
For two years in a row, the Bulldogs have fallen short of championships, and that has left a lot of unfinished business for Murray and his squad.
Murray has one more chance to leave a championship legacy at Georgia, and he is in position to do just that this fall..