By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush
The Georgia Bulldogs were just a tipped pass and a fallen receiver away from the national championship game last season. None of it matters heading into an opener with Clemson that could dictate whether Mark Richt’s squad can get over the hump in 2013.
“We can’t be happy with what we did last year,” quarterback and first-team preseason all-SEC selection Aaron Murray said. “I don’t think anyone has been too complacent or feels like we’ve arrived as an offense. We know we have a lot to continue to do as a unit and individually to be the best.”
The Bulldogs have aspirations to be the nation’s most explosive offensive team, which can’t sit well with the first opponent on the schedule. But with all of the hype surrounding Clemson’s offense under Chad Morris, there is a chance the Bulldogs actually could enter the nation’s most hyped primetime showdown a bit under the radar.
With a load of returning players, including Murray at quarterback and a slew of explosive skill position guys, the Georgia offense feels good about itself heading into its trip to Clemson.
“I think we’ve gotten better each scrimmage,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “That’s what we wanted to do. We haven’t really had any setbacks. We’ve had some practices that probably weren’t up to par, but the games have been good.”
Georgia has a pair of monster matchups with Palmetto State teams to begin the season, as the Bulldogs will host South Carolina in Week 2. But the Tigers now have their full attention as Bobo, Murray, and company try to stake a claim to a national championship berth.
“It brought a lot of excitement this offseason,” Murray said of the opening game. “It pushed us to work extra hard in workouts and conditioning, and also right now in practice.”
“I can’t wait,” wide receiver Michael Bennett said. “I think about it all the time. I just hope that I can keep my nerves down when that first snap comes.”
Georgia has plenty of reasons for optimism—a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall in the backfield to provide perhaps the nation’s most talented tailback duo, and a corps of receivers and tight ends that are the envy of most programs in the country. In spite of all this, the Bulldogs come into the August 31 contest as the less-heralded unit.
It could be due to style of play or reputation. It could be due to the focus on rebuilding a defense that lost a ton of talent from last season. Whatever the reason, Georgia is out to prove its worth—yet again—by taking Clemson seriously.
The Bulldogs had the scout team mimic Clemson’s attack in a scrimmage last week. Mark Richt wants to make sure his guys are fully prepared to handle all the hoopla surrounding such a big game. His staff understands the enormity of the task at hand and the rewards that could come with a road win against a top ten opponent.
“We want to play that first one like we’ve kind of been tested,” Bobo said. “We’re really trying to test our guys this camp, and I think they’ve really responded.”