Only thing left for Georgia QB is to win SEC title

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ATHENS, Ga. — Aaron Murray is on pace to leave Georgia with most of the school’s major passing records.

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Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray slimmed down on a new diet plan that resulted in a loss of 10 pounds.  JASON GETZ/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
JASON GETZ/ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray slimmed down on a new diet plan that resulted in a loss of 10 pounds.

After two consecutive runner-up finishes, he’s hoping to also finish with a Southeastern Conference championship.

One look at a leaner Murray shows he’s serious about his last SEC title chase. After making the decision to return, Murray visited the school nutritional staff and laid out a diet that resulted in a loss of about 10 pounds and a reduction in body fat from 14 to 9 percent.

But before Murray started slimming down, the Georgia offense was explosive – and it should be again.

Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall return after combining for 2,144 yards and 25 touchdowns as freshmen.

All five starters on the offensive line are back, and wide receiver Michael Bennett has recovered from a knee injury to join Malcolm Mitchell and tight ends Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome as Murray’s top targets.

The big question is the defense, which returns four starters.

It’s a reversal from a year ago, when the defense was packed with returning starters but the offensive line and running backs were unproven.

“Last off-season everyone was asking me was the offense going to be any good because we lost so many guys,” Murray said. “We had a great year offensively. I think the defense is the same way. They got better and better in spring practice and I think they looked awesome in the summer. I look forward to them having a great year.”

Georgia has won two SEC titles with coach Mark Richt, but eight years have passed since the last championship.

The Bulldogs were close last year, losing 32-28 to eventual national champion Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Louisiana State University beat Georgia for the 2011 SEC title.

The early schedule is daunting.

Three of Georgia’s first four opponents could be ranked in the top 15, including Saturday’s opener at Clemson and the Sept. 7 home opener against South Carolina. LSU visits Athens on Sept. 28.

ON THE HOT SEAT

Last summer, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham received a three-year extension, with a base salary of $825,000 a year. Despite an array of stars in Georgia’s 3-4 defense last year, the Bulldogs ranked 77th in the nation against the run. If Georgia is to contend for a championship, stopping the run is a must. If the Bulldogs can’t stop the run, fans will look past the team’s youth and focus on Grantham and his 3-4 defense.

HEISMAN WATCH

QB Aaron Murray (Sr.), who has thrown for 10,091 yards, is on pace to shatter the SEC record for passing yardage set by former Bulldogs quarterback David Greene (11,528). Murray will have to play well in the first two games against Clemson and South Carolina to become a serious Heisman contender.

MUST SEE GAME

South Carolina, Sept. 7. There are plenty of games to choose from, with Georgia playing Clemson, Louisiana State and Florida. But if the Bulldogs are going to make a run at an SEC Championship, they have to defeat the Gamecocks for the first time since 2009.

LOCAL PLAYERS

DL Jon Atkins (Thomson), Fr.; FB Corey Campbell (Hephzibah), Sr.; TE Jordan Davis (Thomson), Fr.; OLB James DeLoach (Jenkins County), Soph.; RB Brendan Douglas (Aquinas), Fr.; P Ethan Jackson (Washington County), Sr.; K Thomas Pritchard (Jefferson County), Fr.; DE John Taylor (Jenkins County), Fr.; TE Drew Wilson (Washington-Wilkes), Sr.

SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT TV

Aug. 31 at Clemson 8 p.m. (ABC-Ch. 6)

Sept. 7 South Carolina 4:30 (ESPN)

Sept. 21 North Texas TBA

Sept. 28 Louisiana State TBA

Oct. 5 at Tennessee TBA

Oct. 12 Missouri TBA

Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt TBA

Nov. 2 Florida 3:30 (CBS-Ch. 12)

Nov. 9 Appalachian State TBA

Nov. 16 at Auburn TBA

Nov. 23 Kentucky TBA

Nov. 30 at Georgia Tech TBA

– From staff and wire reports


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