There are speedy receivers and sure-handed receivers. There’s a big tight end and no shortage of talented running backs. The guys up front are an experienced bunch, giving Georgia’s quarterback plenty of confidence when he drops into the pocket.
No wonder the ninth-ranked Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) have been really clicking with the ball in their hands.
Georgia goes into Saturday’s big game against No. 6 LSU (4-0, 1-0) with one of the country’s top offenses, averaging more than 40 points and 574 yards per game.
While Murray, a fifth-year senior, plays a huge role in the team’s success, the biggest thing is balance. The Bulldogs have depth at every position, giving their experienced quarterback plenty of options.
“It’s a fun offense to be involved in,” Murray said.
Georgia has always been a program built around the ground game — you might remember a back named Herschel Walker — and nothing has really changed there. Sophomore Todd Gurley is a bruising runner who already has a pair of 100-yard games. Keith Marshall provides a slashing change of pace off the bench. Even 257-pound fullback Quayvon Hicks has shown he’s more than just an extra blocker.
Of course, the Bulldogs also have one of the most prolific passers in SEC history, a quarterback who seems like he’s been around Athens forever. It’s only natural that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo would keep opening things up for Murray, allowing him to do everything from working out of the no-huddle to calling plays with four and five receivers.
“The core of who we are as an offense has stayed the same,” receiver Mike Conley said. “But we realize we’ve got so many weapons, you don’t want them all to be sitting on the bench. You want to get them on the field and spreading teams out. We can hurry teams up with the no-huddle. When you have a quarterback who’s done this offense for years and can read defenses, you don’t have to huddle on every single play. Let him see what’s going on, check and make a play, and let’s play fast.”
Murray is averaging more than 346 yards a game through the air, and seven touchdown passes have pushed him to 102 in his career.
There’s no telling who Murray might throw to on any given play. Conley, Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley are tied for the team lead with 10 catches apiece. Tight end Arthur Lynch has eight receptions and a pair of touchdowns. Marshall and Gurley are threats out of the backfield, combining for 11 catches.
Five other players have at least two receptions, including freshman Reggie Davis, who last week hooked up with Murray on a 98-yard touchdown — the longest scoring play in Georgia history.
Davis and Scott-Wesley were high school track stars, giving Georgia the sort of speed that keeps defensive backs on their heels. Conley, Bennett and Lynch are possession-style receivers, the sort of players Murray knows he can count on when he’s got to have a completion.
“They can attack you in a number of different ways,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “It’s not what you would say is just a traditional, run-of-the-mill, two-back offense. They have all the ways to attack you that anybody would want.”
The Bulldogs put up five touchdowns and 545 yards on No. 3 Clemson in the season opener, but two turnovers, dropped passes and 84 yards in penalties doomed Georgia to 38-35 loss.
“Really, we can just stop ourselves,” Bennett said. “We’re very talented. We all have a lot of experience. We know what we need to do to get open, to get going on long runs. It just comes down to us.”
Georgia bounced back with a 41-30 shredding of then-No. 6 South Carolina, directing plays away from Jadeveon Clowney and thoroughly frustrating Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier. The Bulldogs turned in their second straight game with more than 200 yards rushing and 500 yards overall.
Last week wasn’t nearly as challenging against North Texas, though a couple of big mistakes on special teams left things in doubt until the second half. Eventually, with Murray throwing four TD passes, the Bulldogs pulled away for a 45-21 victory.
Now, it’s time to face another top-10 opponent.
Georgia certainly isn’t intimidated by a team that has long had one of the nation’s top defenses.
“We feel like once we get the ball rolling,” Scott-Wesley said, “it’s hard for any defense to stop us.”