As he watched injured Aaron Murray being helped off the field in last November's game against Kentucky, new Georgia starting quarterback Hutson Mason hardly developed a sense of ownership.
Mason did not feel the Bulldogs were his team the rest of that rout or the following week at Georgia Tech, when they fell behind 20-0 but rallied for a 41-34 double-overtime triumph. Not even a month of bowl preparation changed the way Mason viewed his role in the huddle and in the locker room.
"After Murray got hurt, it was just a really awkward situation," Mason said after the G-Day spring game. "No matter how many guys were telling me that it was my team now, it just wasn't. It takes a while to get over a guy who had been here for four years. Aaron had been the face of this program, and it takes people a while to get used to a new face.
"When we got back from Athens after the bowl and started our mat drills, that was when things started settling in. That's when this became my team."
In a quarterback lineage under Mark Richt that has been highlighted by the long-lasting trio of David Greene, Matthew Stafford and Murray, the 6-foot-3, 202-pound Mason falls into the camp of predecessors D.J. Shockley and Joe Cox. Shockley and Cox were not starters until they were fifth-year seniors, which is where Mason is now.
The dynamic Shockley threw 24 touchdown passes and only five interceptions in leading Georgia to its most recent Southeastern Conference title in 2005.
Mason showed signs this spring of being a capable successor to Murray, the SEC's all-time passing leader who nearly led the Bulldogs to an upset of Alabama in the 2012 SEC title game. In the three scrimmages this spring, which included the G-Day game April 12, Mason completed 42 of 61 passes for 529 yards with four touchdowns.
"I thought Hutson had an outstanding spring," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo recently told reporters. "He really stepped up in the leadership department and had great command of the offense. He was extremely accurate and came prepared every day to get better."
Said senior receiver Michael Bennett: "Hutson improved this spring, but he's been showing improvement ever since he's been here. Playing behind the No. 1 offensive line was big for him this spring."
One of the bigger objectives Bobo had this spring for Mason, an unheralded 2010 signee from Marietta, dealt with footwork. Bobo had detected on video that Mason's feet had been too close together late last season, so the two studied New England Patriots star Tom Brady and how he established himself in the pocket.
Bobo's father, George, a former coach at Thomasville High, also helped out.
"Coach Bobo's dad really taught me a lot as far as footwork and the lower body, which is something I was struggling with at the end of last year," Mason said. "We worked hard together in January, February and March, and he feels like I've come a long way. I thought as far as mentally and knowing everything in this offense, I felt fantastic the whole spring.
"It was more about mechanics for me, so that's what I really wanted to focus on. I tried to get my lower body into every single throw this spring to where it wasn't just all arm."
Mason's footwork and his zip on the ball improved, according to the younger Bobo, who said the quarterback completed around 65 percent of his passes in 11-on-11 drills. His one performance open to the public was impressive, as Mason completed 18 of 27 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.
"I think his other two scrimmages were even better," Richt said after G-Day. "He's just very knowledgeable and comfortable and accurate. He's a competitor, and I think he's ready for all these challenges."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.