Big pack of Dogs set for home finale

Big pack of Dogs set for home finale

November 21st, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Quarterback Aaron Murray (11) greets fans.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

WHERE THEY STAND

The top five quarterback prospects for the 2013 NFL draft (including overall projection):

1. West Virginia's Geno Smith (10th)

2. Southern Cal's Matt Barkley (18th)

3. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson (27th)

4. Florida State's E.J. Manuel (51st)

5. Georgia's Aaron Murray (52nd)

Source: CBS Sports

ATHENS, Ga. -- More than 20 Georgia senior football players will compete in Sanford Stadium for the final time Saturday afternoon when the No. 3 Bulldogs host Georgia Tech.

Junior linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree are projected NFL first-round picks and could be playing their last home game as well, but what about junior quarterback Aaron Murray?

"I don't know, and I'm not thinking about that," Murray said Tuesday. "I've had friends and everyone ask, but I don't know and am not worrying about that until after the season. Then I'll sit down with my family and make the best decision for myself and my future.

"I'm having too much fun right now. This season has been awesome, and we still have so much ahead of us and so much excitement. I'm just living in the moment."

The moment is special indeed for the 6-foot-1, 210-pounder from Tampa, who leads the nation in passing efficiency (174.3) and needs just 14 yards against the Yellow Jackets to become the first quarterback in Southeastern Conference history to amass 3,000 passing yards in three consecutive seasons. By returning next year, Murray could become the first in SEC history to throw for more than 12,000 career yards.

One scouting director for an NFL team has studied Murray on video and in practice and projects him to be drafted in the fourth round but said he could go higher should he lead the team to a memorable finish. A Georgia win this week and next week in the SEC championship game would enable the Bulldogs to play for their first national championship in the BCS era.

"I don't think he will be a high pick, but I think he will translate because he is pretty proficient with the ball, and he's a tough kid," the scout said. "You see him stand in there and take hits, and he gets up and plays the next snap. He's been very productive there.

"I don't know if it would be a smart move for him to come out, but I do think he would translate into the NFL from a physical standpoint."

Former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy posted on Twitter this week that the Kansas City Chiefs should look at Murray should they have the first or second overall pick. Eric Dungy, Tony's son, is an Oregon receiver and a former teammate of Murray at Tampa's Plant High School.

Murray admitted he would love to return if it meant growing two or three inches.

"I need to find some way to do that," said Murray, who loves watching smaller NFL quarterbacks such as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson excel. "If I could just be my dad's height. He's 6-2 and a half, but I got my mom's height, and I'm not happy about that."

Should Murray choose to come back, the Bulldogs would return 10 of 11 offensive starters from this week's lineup. Flanker Tavarres King is that lone senior starter, and backup flanker Chris Conley already is making a push for Murray's return.

"I could see him coming back, but you never know, and you never want to question anyone's decision," Conley said. "It's up to him and his family, but he will make plays wherever he goes. I'm certainly going to be shouting out 'One more year!' on Saturday."

Georgia's senior class includes King, nose tackle John Jenkins, defensive end Cornelius Washington, inside linebackers Christian Robinson and Michael Gilliard and defensive backs Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo, Branden Smith and Shawn Williams. It also contains two players out for the season, receiver Marlon Brown and defensive end Abry Jones.

This crop started out with a 14-12 record during the 2009-10 seasons, but the past two years have yielded a 20-5 record and 20 wins in the last 21 regular-season games.

"They've done a really good job," coach Mark Richt said. "We didn't start out this season playing as great as we would hope to, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but we got that thing turned around with Shawn's leadership. I think that was the catalyst for our defense to pick it up, and we've been playing pretty well ever since.

"There's been a lot of player-driven stuff that we always talked about. I saw a lot more of it than we talked about it this year."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.