Richt, the keynote speaker Friday at the 25th annual Cobb County Football Kickoff Luncheon, offered input on some of his players from the area, most notably Mason.
After rewriting the record books in the three years at Lassiter, the 6-foot-3, 202-pound Mason has served as Murray’s understudy for much of his time in Athens. Now a redshirt junior after sitting the 2012 season out, Richt feels Mason has all of the knowledge and abilities to take over for Murray if the need arises.
“Hutson looks great,” Richt said. “He’s in great condition. He’s gotten stronger, he has a tremendous grasp of our offensive system, and we have a lot of faith in him. We know that he can come in and move the team to score points.”
Mason’s already done that a few times.
As a true freshman in 2010, he connected with Logan Gray on a 26-yard touchdown on his first career play from scrimmage. Mason ultimately appeared in four games that season, completing nine passes for 102 yards.
In 2011, he saw action in another four games, throwing for 254 yards and two touchdowns on an 18-for-30 success rate.
Before the 2012 season, Mason made the decision to sit out and use his redshirt, so he and Murray would have a year apart and Mason would have the opportunity to start at least one season. Mason would have only played if Murray had suffered a debilitating injury that sidelined him for a significant amount of time.
Mason also foresaw the highly regarded Murray as a potential early entry into the NFL draft following the 2012 season. Murray, however, decided to return to Georgia for his senior season and one last chance at leading the Bulldogs to a national championship.
That left Mason — who admitted that he felt “frustrated” after learning of Murray’s decision — with one more season as the man in waiting.
“Hutson is the first man (off the bench), I can promise you that,” Richt said. “Our goal would be to play our second team at every possible moment, but we’ll just let the situation dictate that over the course of the season.”
When Mason does take the field, Richt believes there won’t be a drop-off in the team’s offensive production.
“We would run everything in our system we could call on Hutson,” Richt said. “He’s about as game ready as a guy will ever be.”
Also game-ready could be Quincey Mauger, a 6-foot, 197-pound defensive back from Kell who graduated early in order or enroll at Georgia in January.
“He graduated early and has been preparing to play safety and help us on special teams as well,” Richt said. “He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and he’s done well in school. He’s been a blessing to our program.”
Mauger enters the season third on the Bulldogs’ depth chart at free safety.
“He’s competing for playing time, starting position, special teams time — all of that,” Richt said. “And, if he’s the man, we’ll put him in there. Safety has a little higher learning curve than other positions. There’s a lot of responsibility back there, and a lot of things to learn and experience, but he certainly has the tools to do it.”
Mauger’s former Kell teammate, Brendan Langley, is also looking to see how he fits into Georgia’s plans.
“Brendan didn’t come until the summer, like most of our signees do,” Richt said. “He came in tremendous condition. I know he didn’t have a lot of school that last semester to finish up, so he worked out really hard, and he had a job as well and took advantage of that time.
“When he showed up, he was really in good enough condition and was physically able to play now, so it’s a matter of how quickly he could learn.”
Other former local players, including Wheeler’s Tommy Long and Walton’s Brandon Kublanow and Brandon Burrows, also have places on Georgia’s roster.
Long, a 6-2, 218-pound redshirt freshman who walked on to the team, is third on the depth chart at inside linebacker, while Burrows, a 6-3, 235-pound junior, is third on the chart at outside linebacker. Kublanow, a true freshman on the offensive line, is expected to redshirt the 2013 season.
Although Burrows has had to deal with several injuries — a torn ACL in 2009 forced him to miss his final season at Walton, and a shoulder injury sidelined him in 2011 — Richt has seen the value of having Burrows on the squad.
“He’s worked so hard and has had so many setbacks injury-wise,” Richt said. “But he’s been a tremendous leader this summer, helping his teammates stay accountable to the offseason workouts, and he’ll be competing for playing time, and on special teams as well.”