Georgia's offense is loaded with weapons in 2014, with running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and wide receivers Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, Malcolm Mitchell and Justin Scott-Wesley all slated to return this fall.
The one new piece of the puzzle, redshirt senior quarterback Hutson Mason, looked like he could be more of a difference-maker than caretaker during Saturday's spring game in Athens.
Mason looked sharp in his first and only spring game as the starting quarterback in Athens, completing 18 of 27 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown.
He was accurate with the deep ball, seemed to have the back-shoulder fade mastered and hit his timing routes on time and on target for the majority of the afternoon, reassuring Georgia's coaches, players and fans that the void left by legendary quarterback Aaron Murray won't be difficult to fill.
But the offense did look a bit different on Saturday, specifically due to the faster pace of play displayed by the first-team offense. Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo have always had no-huddle elements in their game plans, but the Bulldogs routinely hurried up to the line during the spring game, giving a bit of a glimpse into the future of the offense.
It wasn't an accident.
"The tempo of the offense was outstanding," Richt said. "I think Hutson really enjoys tempo and a faster pace. He handles that very well."
Mason wasn't as committal on his preference as his head coach was, but he is comfortable enough with the increased emphasis on tempo and its benefits.
"I like it, but I think there are some pros and cons to it," he said. "It's hard to realize what the defense is doing when you go fast because you don't really see if they're blitzing because they don't really get lined up. But, over an amount of time, a defense has to cover a lot and run sideline-to-sideline. If we're in good enough shape, it can really wear down a defense."
Mason felt that the tempo wore down some of his teammates on the unusually hot April day.
"It was hotter out than we thought, so running no-huddle with receivers was tough," he said in postgame quotes released by Georgia. "The guys got gassed but it was good to see them push through it. I still feel like we left some deep balls out there."
Through only 15 practices with the first-team offense, consider the tempo aspect of Georgia's offense a work in progress. The receivers first had to get further acclimated to Mason just as the quarterback, after the 6'3", 202-pounder from Marietta, Ga. got two-and-a-half games as the No. 1 quarterback to close out last season after Murray's ACL injury.
The tempo aspect is part of the fine-tuning phase of the installation, which won't come until later this summer—when Mitchell (ACL, leg) and Scott-Wesley (ACL) should come back from their injuries. If spring was any indication, an increased attention to a faster pace will be a big part of Georgia's game plan in 2014.
If Georgia can mix in tempo into a game plan that should feature the punishing running style of Gurley, the versatility of Marshall and the deep and talented receiving corps, it will be tough to stop.
Will the Bulldogs go as fast as other SEC tempo teams like Auburn, Texas A&M and Ole Miss? No. The coaching staff will likely pick and choose its spots, but expect those spots to be more frequent in 2014.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and spring game information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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