Spring practice began for the Georgia Bulldogs Tuesday, and it could not have come at a better time.
Four Georgia players were arrested Monday night according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and head coach Mark Richt and the rest of the Bulldogs needed to put their focus on something else.
Tuesday marked the first of 15 spring practices for the Bulldogs, and the focus will be on new starting quarterback Hutson Mason.
He did not do anything special in the first practice because the Bulldogs were just getting their feet wet after two months off the field. According to Charles Odum of the Associated Press, Mason is expected to be the starter with Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey working behind him.
One of the goals for Mason during spring practice will be to mentor his young backups. Mason is the No. 1 quarterback, but he is a senior and will have to guide Bauta, Ramsey and newcomer Jacob Park, one of whom will likely be the starter next season.
Mason gained significant playing time at the end of last season. With Aaron Murray going down with an ACL injury against Kentucky, Mason got to finish that game. He also lead the Bulldogs to a win against Georgia Tech and nearly led them to victory against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
Mason is not a new gunslinger unsure of what to do. Because of his experience and the skill players he will have, Mason’s expectations will be sky high.
Richt says Hutson Mason is far ahead at QB, but he doesn't want players to think they've locked up any jobs. #UGASpringPractice— Dan Mathews (@DanMathewsATL) March 18, 2014
And speaking of skill players, Mason will have to develop chemistry with his receivers, especially Justin-Scott Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell. Both are returning from ACL injuries.
He will also have to find his No. 1 target.
Barrett Sallee mentioned that Michael Bennett and Chris Conley are likely candidates because they were Mason’s favorite two targets last season. Scott-Wesley and Mitchell are more explosive and can make big-time plays for Mason, but Mason will not have the opportunity to see what they can do—both will be limited during practice (according to Odum).
Mason will need to be a better player at the end of spring practice than he was at the start. In order for the Bulldogs to make a run at the SEC title, Mason will have to be the player that Murray was the last four seasons.
The offense will have to be on point for the Bulldogs to win. The defense and special teams will have to hold their end of the bargain, but Mason's play will be critical. No matter how great the skill players are, Georgia's success will depend on the rising senior quarterback from Marietta, Ga.