Mark Richt’s press conference at Georgia’s SEC Media Day touched upon many of the keys to the Bulldogs’ success for the upcoming season. Richt, head coach of the Bulldogs, spoke with the media about his team’s not-so-secret weapon: continuity. In particular, he focused on the return of many important pieces on the offensive side of the ball.
Coming off of last season’s success, in which the Bulldogs went 7-1 in the SEC and 12-2 overall, having ten returning starters provides a great foundation for a team looking to make a run for the national title, especially after coming five yards short of making it to last season’s title game. For the Bulldogs, QB Aaron Murray, running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, and last season’s second leading receiver, Malcolm Mitchell are all returning. In addition, Mike Bobo returns for his seventh season as offensive coordinator. With these key pieces, Georgia’s offense looks to be an unstoppable force. Each piece, however, deserves some further evaluation.
One of the biggest assets to Georgia’s offense is Murray. Starting the season as a potential Heisman candidate speaks to the success Murray had last year, as well as the expectations for his success this year. Last season alone, Murray threw for 3,893 total yards and 36 touchdowns, bringing his career touchdown record to 95. In addition, he completed 64.5 percent of his passes, throwing only 10 interceptions. Compare his stats to those from the year before, in which he threw for 35 touchdowns and 3,149 total yards, and Murray proves he is a reliable QB year after year, always looking to improve.
What gives Murray even more of a leg-up on other college quarterbacks is his familiarity and comfort with Georgia’s offense. He is entering his fourth year as a starting QB and brings to the position the ability to quickly read defenses and adjust his offensive line according to his analysis. Having an experienced, quick-thinking player at such an important position sets a title-bound team apart from the others.
Continuity in the running back position makes this season different for Murray, as this will be the first time during his years at Georgia that he will have a returning running back that started the year before. Richt believes it is important “to have at least two backs that can share the load,” and the duo of Gurley and Marshall does just that. A strong running game is necessary for any SEC team, and Georgia’s duo is often unstoppable. Last year as a freshman, Gurley, who started 12 games, rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Marshall, who started only one game last season, rushed for 759 yards and 8 touchdowns as a freshman. According to Richt, Gurley and Marshall do not mind sharing, as they combined for 339 carries last year, with Gurley taking the majority of the carries. Having two, talented backs open to sharing greatly increases the productivity for Georgia’s running game, since the two guys complement each other so well.
The Bulldogs’ offense will continue to be unstoppable this season with returning wide receiver, Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell ended last season second on the team with 572 receiving yards on 40 catches and proved himself to be a versatile player, occasionally serving as a cornerback for the Bulldogs’ defense. This year, however, Mitchell works as a full-time receiver, alongside Michael Bennett and new starter Chris Conley, serving as a major threat to SEC defenses. Mitchell, Bennett, and Conley look to fill the gap left by the departure of Tavarres King and Marlon Brown.
With Georgia facing solid defenses in its first few weeks of the season, including a September 7th game against South Carolina, having the experience of ten returning offensive starters is Georgia’s best weapon. Continuity is certainly proving to be a friend to the Bulldogs’ title hopes.