Hutson Mason is being handed the keys to an offense ranked in the top-15 nationally in total yards and top-20 in scoring.
His test drive in place of injured Georgia starter Aaron Murray against Kentucky on Saturday went pretty smooth.
Now the redshirt junior quarterback will ride again Saturday at rival Georgia Tech in his first college start. A torn ACL in Murray’s left knee ended his college career.
“We don’t feel like there’s going to be a drop-off,” wide receiver Chris Conley said. “Hutson’s been prepared since day one. A lot of the guys around here, especially the older guys, have taken tons of reps with Hutson. We know he’s able to execute. I don’t think there’s any wavering confidence in our offense or the way that we can execute.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has called the plays for all of Murray’s four seasons and will make any adjustments in game plans to suit Mason.
“We were really spread the whole night,” Bobo said of Georgia’s 59-17 win against Kentucky. “We felt spreading them out was the way to go. We tried to get a one (linebacker) box and make their safeties tackle. When Hutson’s in there, he’s a little bit more of a spread guy and we did a little bit more of what he could do. He did a nice job.”
Instead of playing in mop-up duty, Mason got into a Georgia game for the first time in a first half.
“The biggest crowd I’ve ever played in is the spring game crowd,” said Mason, out of Lassiter in Marietta. “Finally getting in there in front of a lot of people, I got a little bit different jitters. I think that will go a long way.”
Mason is poised to become the first Georgia quarterback to start his first college game against Georgia Tech since true freshman Joe Dupree got the nod over Greg Talley in 1990.
Dupree and the Bulldogs lost to the eventual national champion Yellow Jackets (as voted by the coaches) 40-23.
Dupree, a Macon native, was described by then-coach Ray Goff then as a “change-of-pace quarterback.” He had played four games that season as a backup and eventually transferred to Georgia Southern. He’s now the coach/athletic director at Southwest High School in Macon.
Mason is a veteran by comparison in his fourth season at Georgia, but doesn’t have a ton of game experience. Georgia coach Mark Richt said he didn’t expect much change in the Bulldogs’ offensive approach.
“We certainly aren’t going to make up a bunch of new plays,” Richt said. “Whatever’s been in our arsenal will be the types of plays we’ll be repping and playing and calling.”
Mason’s style of play won’t be much different than Murray, Richt said. He’ll be able to get the offense into the right plays and make the proper reads in the passing game.
Mason is taking over for the Southeastern Conference’s passing yardage leader he calls “probably the greatest UGA quarterback of all time,” but it’s the quarterback who previously had that SEC record, former Bulldog David Greene, that Richt compares Mason to in style and throwing a catchable ball.
“David Greene and him are similar in the type of ball that they would throw,” Richt said. “He’s a guy that anticipates very well. He’ll throw the ball sooner maybe than some QBs will throw the ball. Some guys will wait just a tad longer and throw it a little harder. Guys like Greene and Hutson will have their sense of anticipation and put it to a spot really before the guy even gets his head around sometimes.”
Mason has shown that in practices mostly. Now he’ll get more of a chance to show it on game day.
“I don’t have a lot of gametime experience, but I’m an older guy and I’ve been here a while,” Mason said. “I know my teammates believe in me and that’s the most important thing.”