published Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Georgia trio competing to be next quarterback

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    Contributed Photo Georgia quarterbacks - Zach Mettenberger (5), Aaron Murray (11) and Logan Gray (6) are up for the starting job.

Whoever succeeds Joe Cox as Georgia's starting quarterback this year will inherit an offense with veteran linemen, the Southeastern Conference's most dazzling receiver and the league's most imposing tailback tandem outside of Tuscaloosa.

"I really don't feel that whoever wins the job is going to have that much pressure on them," Aaron Murray said Wednesday. "It's not going to be like we're going to go out there and throw the ball 40 times a game. We're going to be able to hand the ball to our running backs most of the game and let them do the work."

With talent such as A.J. Green, Washaun Ealey and Caleb King in place, Georgia's quarterback race among Murray, Zach Mettenberger and Logan Gray may be the most intriguing in the SEC this spring. It's certainly the most wide open, as the Bulldogs are the only league team moving on without anyone who threw a touchdown pass last season.

Georgia is scheduled to start spring workouts March 4, with the G-Day game set for April 10.

"This is definitely a big spring for us three quarterbacks," Mettenberger said. "It pretty much is going to decide who is going to be the quarterback for possibly the next couple of years. We're all very excited about the competition, and we're all pushing each other to be the best we can. Whatever happens, happens. We're still going to be friends in the end."

Gray (6-foot-2, 192 pounds) was a sophomore last season and attempted passes in just three games. He completed 5 of 12 and was intercepted twice, and his 31 yards are the fewest among each SEC team's top returning quarterback.

Switching to receiver or another position was something Gray pondered the past few weeks, but he said Wednesday that he plans to stay put.

"We get caught up so much in these individual battles that we forget sometimes we're still Georgia," Gray said. "The whole goal is to win games and get better as a team. Obviously I want the best player at quarterback to play that's going to help us. If it's not me, then I'm going to try to contribute any way I can."

Murray (6-1, 210) and Mettenberger (6-5, 237) redshirted last season after enrolling early. Mettenberger was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 11 quarterback nationally in the 2009 signing class, while Murray was No. 3 behind Matt Barkley of Southern Cal and Garrett Gilbert of Texas.

While Mettenberger was plagued by erratic scrimmages last spring and summer, Murray's hopes of challenging Cox were dashed by tendinitis in his triceps and forearm before the opener at Oklahoma State.

"I just tried to push through it, and it inflamed up and spread throughout the arm," Murray said. "I didn't give it the proper rest. If I had, I would have been out a week instead of going four or five weeks without throwing. I've learned from that."

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said last week that his returning quarterbacks benefited from getting some first- and second-team practice reps last season when Cox occasionally rested a sore arm. He expects one of the three to do a "very capable job" of running the offense.

Bobo has not announced any timetable for a decision, so it could be April or August.

"We've got Logan who is a super athlete and that if quarterback doesn't work out for him, he can go play another position," Mettenberger said. "It's a little different for Aaron and me. Aaron is a little more mobile than me and may be a little more accurate, but I think my size and how I throw the ball is definitely something I could sort of have to my benefit."

Said Murray: "I'm confident I'm going to go out there and work my butt off like I'm the starter. It's going to be fun. It's going to be an exciting spring."

Samuel thrilled to switch

Richard Samuel, who started Georgia's first six games at tailback last year and led the Bulldogs in rushing through 10 games, is eager to begin his junior season at linebacker. Coach Mark Richt announced the change last week for Samuel, who played tailback and linebacker at Cass High in Cartersville.

"It's the complete opposite of what I was doing on offense," Samuel said Wednesday. "I've got to learn the different offenses with different schemes and different formations."

The 6-2 Samuel weighs 230 pounds after playing at 222 last season. He does not care whether he plays inside or outside and believes the timing is right considering every defender must adjust under new coordinator Todd Grantham, who is implementing a 3-4 scheme.

"It's all back to ground zero," Samuel said. "No one knows the plays, and no one knows the schemes. I feel like everybody is at zero again."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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