Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason throws a pass against Appalachian State earlier this season. Mason is now the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback after senior Aaron Murray went down with a torn ACL last week against Kentucky. (Reuters)
ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if the Bulldogs have a few more false starts than usual when they play Georgia Tech on Saturday. But that may be one of the only negatives for Georgia’s offense as it transitions to quarterback Hutson Mason from the injured Aaron Murray.
At least that was the word from Georgia’s offensive players, who went through their first full practice with Mason at the controls of the No. 1 unit on Monday. The redshirt junior from Marietta will start his first game in four years.
“He has a little bit of a quicker tempo than Murray,” junior center David Andrews said. “We joke about it all the time.”
Murray was sidelined for the season with an ACL tear with 2:17 remaining in the first half against Kentucky on Saturday. With Mason playing the final 31:05 of the game, Georgia was flagged for false starts three times and it wasn’t because he has a different cadence on the snap count.
“He’s wanting to go, go, go,” Andrews said. “They’re changing the defense, so I’m trying to change something, too, and I think KG (Kenarious Gates) got called for a false start. I got caught off guard. But he’s just up-tempo about stuff. Sometimes I have to get him to slow down because we’ve got to communicate stuff. We’ll get used to it a little more this week.”
Said senior offensive guard Chris Burnette: “We’ll be like, ‘Slow down, slow down. We need to catch our breath for a second!’ But other than that, they’re not much different.”
As for running the plays, the Bulldogs believe Mason will flourish. While he has been limited to just nine games of backup experience, his teammates have raved about his ability and demeanor for three years.
“He’s got a great work ethic and he’s great in practice,” senior guard Dallas Lee said. “He showed that he’s pretty freaking good on Saturday. I don’t think he’ll miss much of a beat.”
Said Andrews: “It’s the way he carries himself. … Even when Murray was out there, Hutson is just a very commanding guy. He’s a very competitive guy. He’s like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.’ It’s a different style than Aaron and it’s something we can adjust to and get used to and we knew it was coming. It was a fun day out there.”
MURRAY AT PRACTICE: For the first time in five years, Murray’s name showed up on Georgia’s post-practice injury report. The senior quarterback was among 11 players on the list after Monday’s practice. But Murray was back at the practice complex on Monday. He was walking with a single crutch and ate with the team after practice.
“It will be his motivation to beat whoever has the fastest comeback time from an ACL,” Lee, his close friend, said. “That’s the way he is with everything.”
Georgia had two other new names on Monday’s report: defensive lineman Sterling Bailey (ankle) and safety Corey Moore (knee) were both listed as out. No other information was available.
TWO TURKEY DAYS: The official team Thanksgiving meal took place Monday night at the football facility. The Bulldogs provided turkey and dressing for players and family members who were able to make it to campus. But tradition of the unofficial Thanksgiving Day meal that used to take place at former UGA coach Rodney Garner’s house for 15 years will continue today.
Garner, of course, left Georgia to return to his alma mater at Auburn and is preparing for a significant game on Saturday. But UGA team chaplain Thomas Settles — T-Sett to the team — has agreed to take over the task of feeding the Bulldogs who are unable to travel to their own homes for the holiday.
“We’re going to give it a shot and see how it goes,” said Settles, who has ministered to Georgia athletes since 2003. “I’m not really sure what to expect.”
That was good news to Garner. “Tradition never dies!” Garner said via text message Monday. “I think that’s awesome. T-Sett’s great people. He will bless those young men’s lives.”
ETC.: Captains for the Georgia Tech game as appointed by the Bulldogs’ coaches are Andrews on offense, Smith on defense and Kosta Vavlas and Corey Campbell for special teams. … As is their Thanksgiving week tradition, the Bulldogs will visit patients at the Shepherd Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta on Friday.