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Mettenberger sent packing

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ATHENS -- Georgia has one less contender for its starting quarterback job.

Coach Mark Richt announced Sunday that touted redshirt freshman Zach Mettenberger was kicked off the team for violating team rules.

Mettenberger threw two touchdowns in Georgia's April 10 spring game but already was facing at least a one-game suspension after being arrested on alcohol charges during spring break. The team didn't reveal if Mettenberger was involved in another incident, or if his dismissal from the team was the result of more details becoming known from his arrest.

The Bulldogs now have a two-man race for starting quarterback: redshirt freshman Aaron Murray and junior Logan Gray, who last year backed up Joe Cox during a disappointing 8-5 season.

The 18-year-old Mettenberger was arrested March 7 in Lowndes County and charged with underage consumption and possession of alcohol, possessing fake identification and disorderly conduct-obstruction. The school never made him available to comment on the charges.

"He's already matured from it," Gray said during spring practice. "Zach wishes he could take it all back. It's definitely tough ... especially going through the scrutiny."

Murray (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) and Mettenberger (6-5, 230) were top recruits. Murray, from Tampa, Fla., was rated the No. 3 quarterback in the nation by Scout.com and Rivals.com and was a Parade magazine All-America pick. Mettenberger, from nearby Oconee County, was rated the No. 11 quarterback in the nation by Rivals.

Both quarterbacks graduated from high school early to get in extra work with the Bulldogs, knowing they would likely be battling each other to replace Cox after his lone season as the starter.

Now, it's Murray vs. Gray, who has an edge in experience but has never been looked at as the long-term solution at quarterback. He has appeared in 25 games, but much of that time came on special teams; he has more yards on punt returns than passes.

In 2009, Gray completed 5 of 12 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions. He considered a position change after the season before opting to compete with Mettenberger and Murray for the starting job.

In the spring game, Mettenberger completed six of 10 passes for 150 yards, including touchdowns of 24 and 39 yards. Gray was 10 of 17 passes for 132 yards and one TD. Murray was the least impressive of the three, connecting on 10 of 22 for 96 yards with one interception.

"They have played well all spring," Richt said after the game. "They have been hitting their targets. They have had few interceptions and few bad decisions. It has been good competition. I feel we have players who can get it done."

Now, the Bulldogs have one less.