Georgia coach Mark Richt talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., Thursday. (AP)
HOOVER, Ala. -- Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was a popular topic last year at Southeastern Conference media days because he was a redshirt freshman joining an offense with 10 returning starters.
Murray made his first media days appearance Thursday as a preseason All-SEC quarterback selection and his team's foundation for the upcoming season. When the Bulldogs concluded the 2010 season with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl, the top offensive concern for this year was replacing receivers A.J. Green and Kris Durham.
That list has grown with tackle Trinton Sturdivant's torn ACL in spring practice and the recent departures of tailbacks Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, the top two rushers each of the past two seasons.
"You definitely want everyone here, but the talent we have is tremendous," Murray said. "Our receivers, as a group, have taken it upon themselves to step their game up. We might be a little young at running back, but they definitely have the talent. I think that position will be fine, and I think we have the best tight ends in the country, so I think that will open up the offense even more."
Murray threw for 3,049 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year and is the league's top returning quarterback in efficiency. The 6-foot-1, 211-pounder from Tampa will be Georgia's top returning rusher as well for the Sept. 3 opener against Boise State with Ealey and King gone and with Carlton Thomas serving a one-game suspension.
Bulldogs coach Mark Richt admits the offense will miss the firepower provided by Green and Durham, two of the top 12 receivers selected in April's NFL draft, but he is reserving judgment on whether Ealey and King will be missed.
"I can't sit here and say I was ever at a point a year ago where I felt like our running backs were being highly productive and kicking butt and were guys I could count on," Richt said. "That wasn't happening, so by the end of this year, I might be saying, 'We're kicking butt, and these are guys I can count on.'
"I wouldn't sit here and say that our running back situation is worse this year than it was a year ago, so we'll see on that."
Murray admits this year is much different for him and that he is more comfortable with everything from calling plays to learning defensive coverages. He has been able to focus more of his time with freshmen, such as tailback Isaiah Crowell and receiver Malcolm Mitchell, and has assumed more of a leadership role.
Though he entered last year with more experience around him, Murray is convinced this year's unit is further ahead.
"I would call meetings and drills last year, and some guys would show up and some guys wouldn't," he said. "This year everyone is showing up to everything, whether it's drills or 7-on-7. Everyone is more focused this year and more determined.
"When you go 6-7, you put things in a different perspective."
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 ...