Despite the loss of veteran quarterback Aaron Murray, Georgia football coach Mark Richt said Bulldogs fans shouldn‚Äôt lower their expectations for the upcoming season.
Georgia went 8-5 last season, finishing third in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division. This year, the Bulldogs return six players on offense and eight on defense. Add in the fact Georgia has a favorable schedule, with seven home contests.
‚ÄúI hope we have high expectations,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúWe all have high expectations for our team for our season. The fact we have Hutson Mason as our starting quarterback doesn‚Äôt make me feel like it can hold us back in any way. I think he‚Äôs ready for the challenge.‚Äù
Richt and basketball coach Mark Fox spoke Monday night at UGA Day at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center. Richt touched on several topics and also talked about Augusta‚Äôs Brendan Douglas, the bruising running back who rushed for 345 yards and caught 13 passes for 172 yards with four total touchdowns during his freshman campaign in the fall.
Douglas is likely to share carries in the upcoming season with standout junior tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and fellow sophomore J.J. Green, along with a slate of redshirt and incoming freshmen.
‚ÄúBrendan‚Äôs doing great. I think he‚Äôs proven he‚Äôs a legitimate Southeastern Conference running back,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs tough. He‚Äôs physical. He‚Äôs a good pass protector. I think he‚Äôll continue to improve as a route runner and a pass-catcher. He‚Äôs played in some pretty big games for us and played well. We have a lot of faith in him.‚Äù
Richt also has a lot of faith in fifth-year senior quarterback Mason, who replaces Aaron Murray. After Murray, who became the SEC‚Äôs all-time passer last season, tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Kentucky, Mason started against Georgia Tech and against Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
‚ÄúI feel a lot better about him as a starter now that he‚Äôs done it a couple of times,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúHe got a little taste of it and got it out of his system. I think he‚Äôll be able to manage it a lot better.‚Äù
While Mason should lead the offense, Richt is looking to shore up a defense that allowed 29 points and 376 total yards a game last season. After the departure of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham in the offseason, Richt hired Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. So far, Richt said he likes what he‚Äôs seen.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre working hard to get our defense to play with a lot of intensity,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúIf you play good fundamental football and you get everybody running to the ball and you‚Äôre not giving up big plays, you‚Äôve got a chance to play good defense. Jeremy and the defensive staff are very good teachers and they‚Äôre very demanding. I‚Äôm pleased with what I‚Äôve seen so far and looking forward to how good we can get in the fall.‚Äù