That is what the majority of the preseason college football magazines are saying about former Lassiter High School standout and current Georgia starting quarterback Hutson Mason. Lindy’s, the Sporting News and Athlon all seem to think the best thing Mason can do is turn around and hand the ball off to Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
While Mason is sure to do that often, the opinion of those three publications are in stark contrast to USA Today’s preview, which put Georgia high school’s single-season passing record holder in yards (4,560) and touchdown passes (54) on its cover.
USA Today said Mason, “looked ready in the spring to take over.” It also said “he appears comfortable handling a faster pace within Georgia’s offense.”
Mason looked rough over the first 28 minutes against Georgia Tech before leading the Bulldogs on seven straight scoring drives to pull out a 41-34 double overtime victory in his first collegiate start. Then, in the Gator Bowl against Newbraska, if either Rantavious Wooten or Arthur Lynch catch a ball that hits them in the hands during the final moments, Mason’s numbers are better than 21-of-39 for 320 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and he’s likely 2-0 as a starter heading into this year.
It seems like some of the publications are knocking Mason because he’s not Aaron Murray. I don’t think he has to be Murray. Mason will have a better running game and a better crop of healthy receivers than his predecessor. The receiving corps will now include former Kell High School standout Brendan Langley, who switched from defense to offense during the offseason, along with former Trojan teammate and North Carolina State pass catcher Charlie Hegedus. All that should be plenty to get Georgia in position to win the SEC Eastern Division.
The question for Mason won’t be if the offense will score enough points to win. Just like last season, it will be can the struggling defense keep opponents off the scorboar. If it can under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Mason may just put the Bulldogs in position to do something Murray didn’t do — win an SEC championship.
Regardless of what the experts say about Mason or Georgia, they can’t be too down on them. Athlon and USA Today have the Bulldogs ranked eighth to start the season, Lindy’s has them 12th and Sporting News 15th.
The publications were not as thrilled with Georgia Tech. The highest ranking the Yellow Jackets received was 47th by Athlon and Lindy’s. They were ranked 52nd by USA Today, and the Sporting News didn’t offer a ranking past the top 25, but it has Georgia Tech fifth in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
The only local player that received significant mention from Georgia Tech’s roster was former Hillgrove standout Jabari Hunt-Days. He moved from linebacker to defensive end this spring and was supposed to become one of the main leaders of the Yellow Jackets’ defense, but Hunt-Days was ruled ineligible last month and will miss the 2014 season. The magazines had likely already gone to press before the announcement was made.
Overall, the magazines mentioned 22 of the 93 players Cobb County is expected to have on Football Bowl Subdivision rosters, and a couple of our top high school players.
It was interesting to see the split the publications have on the LSU quarterback situation. Marietta’s Anthony Jennings was expected to take over for former quarterback Zach Mettenberg in the fall. It seemed like a no-brainer after Jennings rallied the Tigers past Arkansas with a late touchdown pass and then led LSU to a bowl victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl, but then Brandon Harris hit campus.
Harris graduated early and enrolled at LSU for the spring semester. After Jennings had an off day and Harris threw three touchdown passes in the spring game, there are some who are saying the freshman will supplant the former Blue Devil. Lindy’s expects Harris to win the job this fall, Athlon and Sporting News each think Jennings will come out on top and USA Today is non-committal, adding the competition is liable to continue into the regular season.
Evan Engram, Brian Randolph, Kyle Woestmann, Brandon Chubb and Kennard Backman all are looked on favorably.
Engram, the former Hillgrove standout who earned All-SEC second team tight end as a freshman last fall, is a preseason third-team All-American and first-team All-SEC choice by Sporting News.
Randolph, Tennessee’s redshirt junior safety who was a three-time all-state performer for Kell, is a second-team All-SEC selection by Lindy’s.
Woestmann will move to outside linebacker for Vanderbilt this season, after playing the first three years of his career at defensive end. Athlon said the former Walton standout should make a smooth transition with the position change, and Lindy’s profiled him with his own story, talking about all the changes he has seen with the Commodores over the course of his career.
Wake Forest’s Chubb is a Lindy’s “Player to Watch” and a difference maker according to the the Sporting News. It says the former Hillgrove star has “speed, toughness and a knack for the big hit.”
Backman wasn’t given any preseason honors, but the UAB tight end caught the eye of most of the publications. Athlon called the former Whitefield Academy standout the “best tight end in Conference USA.” Lindy’s called him, “outstanding,” and USA Today picks him as a key returner.
Some of the other mentions included Hillgrove’s Kenyan Drake being part of the nation’s best backfield at Alabama, according to Athlon and it called him a player with “game-breaking speed and a bona fide weapon in space.” USA Today said UCLA’s Kenny Orjioke, a former Lassiter standout, will be a “capable replacement” at linebacker for the graduated Anthony Barr. And Athlon said it expects former North Cobb pass catcher Jalen Williams to “boost a deep receiving corps,” at Massachusetts.
Eleven different players earned recognition as a top-10 recruit by their respective colleges. The highest were Middle Tennessee running back J’Vonte Herrod and UAB receiver Quincy Perdue. The former North Cobb and Lassiter standouts respectively were each ranked the No. 2 recruit for their programs.
Each of the publications offers a look ahead to the recruiting class of 2015, and this year McEachern teammates Chuma Edoga and Taj Griffin are mentioned prominently.
Edoga, the 6-foot-4, 290 pound offensive lineman who has committed to Southern California, is ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the country by USA Today, No. 27 by Lindy’s, No. 45 by Athlon and as a second-team lineman by the Sporting News.
Griffin, a 5-10, 175 pound running back, is ranked by two of the magazines. The future Oregon Duck is the country’s 42nd ranked prospect by Athlon and No. 50 by Lindy’s.