Georgia's Murray surrounded by new skill players

Georgia's Murray surrounded by new skill players

Published Aug. 20, 2011 6:58 p.m. ET

Aaron Murray is no longer the new kid in Georgia's offense.

Murray, the sophomore quarterback, is surrounded by new skill players as the No. 19 Bulldogs must replace their top two rushers, top two receivers and top two fullbacks from 2010.

Receiver A.J. Green tops the long list of players who must be replaced. Tailbacks Caleb King and Washaun Ealey and No. 2 receiver Kris Durham also are gone.

Murray is one of only four returning starters on offense. Georgia, 6-7 last year, is the only team with a losing record in 2010 to be included in Saturday's preseason Top 25.


The hype surrounding some of Georgia's highly ranked recruiting class, especially on offense, might have influenced poll voters.

Isaiah Crowell, a freshman who returned from a groin injury for Saturday's practice, is the likely starter at tailback. Converted tight end Bruce Figgins and Alexander Ogletree are the top fullbacks.

Tavarres King is the top returning receiver. Perhaps most encouraging for offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is the emergence of freshmen receivers Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett.

King, Mitchell, Bennett, juniors Rantavious Wooten and Marlon Brown, and senior Israel Troupe are making the receiver position look especially deep for a unit that lost Green as a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals.

''Obviously, there was some concern losing Durham and A.J., but I've been real pleased with that position,'' Bobo said Friday. ''They have worked extremely hard. They came in in shape, and they all are answering the phone, so to speak. They're picking up on the opportunity to get the ball thrown their way.''

Mitchell, from Valdosta (Ga.) High School, began impressing Murray and other veteran players in voluntary summer passing drills. Bennett (6-3, 208) is a redshirt freshman.

Brown (6-5, 222) had only 13 catches in his first two seasons and now could be in position to deliver on the expectations that came when he was named a Parade high school All-American at Harding Academy in Memphis.

Bobo said he has worked with three-receiver combinations that include King, Mitchell and Brown. When King missed practice time, Wooten moved up.

''Rantavious has had a very good preseason,'' Bobo said. ''He had to be more consistent. He had shown flashes and signs of making plays but he had to be more consistent, and he has been consistent. He's had a great camp.''

Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said he has been trying to make sure Crowell and converted linebacker Richard Samuel (strained quadriceps) recover from their injuries before the Sept. 3 opener against No. 5 Boise State in the Georgia Dome.

McClendon said Crowell went through all the drills on Friday despite wearing the green jersey reserved for injured players. Crowell shed it on Saturday.

''It was a competition day, and Isaiah wanted to be a part of it, and he contributed,'' coach Mark Richt said.

Richt said he liked the morning practice before the team's annual Picture Day.

''Everybody was locked in and excited, and we had a lot of tightly contested drills,'' Richt said. ''Guys wanted to win each drill, every play was meaningful and nobody got hurt.''

McClendon said he's comfortable with Figgins or Ogletree as replacements for 2010 starting fullbacks Shaun Chapas and Fred Munzenmaier.

''Both of those guys are playing like No. 1 guys,'' McClendon said. ''Bruce definitely has been doing a fantastic job in his development at the position. So has Alexander.''

Notes: Georgia and Nike unveiled new red-on-red uniforms the Bulldogs plan to wear only in the opener against Boise State. The new look also includes silver and red helmets. ... Asked after Saturday's practice if he believed he had a top 20 team, Richt said ''We are now. ... It's nice to be ranked right now, and we knew Boise would be highly ranked, and this is an opportunity to play a top five team to open the season.''