Georgia QB Aaron Murray wasn’t happy to hear he’d been called out by South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney at SEC Media Days, and Murray fired back when it was his turn to talk, simply saying Clowney needs to learn the difference between fear and respect.
HOOVER, Ala. — Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray wasn’t in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday evening. But he said he heard Jadeveon Clowney’s comments about him literally minutes after the words left the defensive end’s lips.
“It was all over Twitter as soon as it happened,” said Murray, who stays wired in from his account, @AaronMurray11. “It pretty much blew up and people were tweeting at me, ‘Oh, did you hear what Clowney said?’
Clowney said that Murray was one of three QBs in the SEC who were “scared” of him, setting the stage Thursday for Murray to be put on the hot seat when it was the Bulldogs’ turn at Media Days.
Murray stayed quiet on the matter for two days, but he was ready when the inevitable question came. And it was, of course, one of the first queries he fielded.
“Here we go. OK, let’s just get it knocked out of the way,” Murray said with a chuckle. “You know, I think the word ‘fear’ was misused for ‘respect,’ ” he said. “I definitely have a lot of respect for (Clowney). He’s definitely one of (the best players in the country), if not the best player in the country. He’s an unbelievable player, a very talented player. He’s a guy you have to game plan for. You have to set a plan for him. So definitely not scared, but definitely respected greatly for what he can do on the field.”
Murray had one of his worst performances in three seasons as a starting quarterback in the Bulldogs’ 35-7 loss against South Carolina in Columbia last season. He failed to complete 20 of his 31 pass attempts and had just 109 yards with an interception and no touchdowns. He was sacked just twice in the game, and only once by Clowney, but he was harassed and on the run all night.
Clowney also got to Murray the previous season. As a freshman defensive end, he got through clean in the fourth quarter and sacked Murray deep in Georgia territory late in the game. His hit forced a fumble, and Melvin Ingram scooped it up and scored in a 45-42 South Carolina victory.
The Bulldogs face the Gamecocks in the second game of the season this year. Murray knows both he and his team need to do a better job against Clowney.
“You definitely have to be aware of him and you definitely have to have a game plan for him and how you’re going to block him,” Murray said. “You might have a running back chip him, a tight end chip him, because it is tough. I know it’s tough for any offensive lineman to block him one-on-one. So you definitely have a game plan for him. And I’m sure (offensive coordinator) Coach (Mike) Bobo has something ready to go this year to better stop him.”
Of course, controlling Clowney has as much to do with Murray’s offensive teammates as with him — if not more. Last year, junior Kenarious Gates was the man primarily responsible for blocking Clowney. He was the starter at left tackle in that game and in most of the Bulldogs’ games last season.
But that competition was opened up in spring practice. Gates again emerged atop the depth chart ahead of Mark Beard. But the Bulldogs have experimented with several players at that position, including right tackles John Theus and Xzavier Ward.
In any case, it won’t be up to the tackles alone.
“I’ll definitely be involved,” said senior tight end Arthur Lynch, who was named to the Preseason All-SEC First-Team by the writers. “It’s all about your footwork and quick hands and that’s what we’ve been stressing. If I can do that, I feel like I can block him fairly well in the run game. Pass pro is a little different; I don’t really deal with that as much obviously.
“But his quickness and strength is unparalleled. ... He’s a once-in-a-lifetime-type player. But does that mean he can’t be blocked? No.”
Perhaps as intriguing as Clowney’s comments about Murray is the senior quarterback’s place in the SEC hierarchy. He has already passed for more than 10,000 yards in his career and is responsible for 104 touchdowns, including 95 through the air. If he stays healthy this season, he will own virtually every SEC passing record in the book.
Yet, when the preseason All-SEC team was released Thursday morning, there sat Murray on the Third Team. Ahead of him was reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M and two-time national championship quarterback A.J. McCarron of Alabama.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” Murray said “There’s nothing wrong with going under the radar. I’m not here to break records or win a Heisman. I just want to win two championships, and that’s why I came back this year. It wasn’t for any recognition or a pat on the back.”
If nothing else, Clowney’s “scared” comments were fun for Murray’s coaches and teammates.
“I think there are probably a lot of players scared of him,” Georgia coach Mark Richt quipped. “If I was playing against him, I know I’d be scared.”
Said Lynch: I think (Murray is) more afraid of his mother. I know I’m more afraid of my mom.
“There’s no doubt that Clowney is one of the best defensive players in college football, and there might be some guys who are scared of him,” Lynch continued. “But I’ve known Aaron for a long time now, and he doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He’s not the biggest guy, he’s not the strongest guy, but he’s the most competitive. He’s definitely not afraid of Clowney or anyone else. I don’t think Clowney is that much of a horror show.”