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Why the Georgia Bulldogs Should Not Redshirt Quarterback Hutson Mason in 2010

It is the topic du jour in Bulldog Nation. Seth Emerson is talking about it, Bill King is talking about it, and hailtogeorgia is talking about it. Should the Georgia Bulldogs’ coaching staff redshirt true freshman quarterback Hutson Mason?

Last year’s backup quarterback, Logan Gray, recently has missed practice time due to an injury after switching positions and acquitting himself well in a recent scrimmage, but he remains the only signal caller on the Red and Black roster (or, if you prefer it in .pdf format, the Red and Black roster) ever to have taken a snap in an intercollegiate game. Gray definitely did the ‘Dawgs a solid by choosing to stick it out in the Classic City, and his desire to see the field as a receiver ought to be honored to the extent possible.

Absent pressing Gray into service under center late in games whose outcomes no longer are in doubt, the only options are to let Aaron Murray take every snap of the season or to make Mason the second-string quarterback and let him get some experience.

The worst option, obviously, would be to leave Murray in for 60 minutes every Saturday, regardless of the circumstances. The Bulldogs’ present depth issues at the position make such a course of action ridiculously risky, and the long-term impact of that decision could be very nearly as bad.

Mark Richt has a proven track record with quarterbacks, having produced a pair of Heisman Trophy winners, a No. 1 draft pick, and the winningest signal caller in Division I-A history not named after a handgun or a 23rd-century practitioner of space medicine. However, in spite of those accomplishments, the fact remains that the Red and Black are entering their second straight season with an unproven commodity under center.

Injuries prevented Murray from playing as a true freshman last year, but, had the Bulldogs’ newly anointed first-string QB been available to play in 2009, does anyone doubt that Georgia would have been better off in the long run? Heck, forget about the long run; does any citizen of Bulldog Nation doubt that senior night would have been better without our senior quarterback?

Perhaps the extra year’s worth of seasoning will pay huge dividends in 2010 and beyond; perhaps Aaron Murray will turn out to be the second coming of David Greene. I certainly hope that is the case, but the virtues of the redshirt in the 21st century are far from obvious where highly touted recruits are concerned.

What benefit did the Bulldogs derive from redshirting Knowshon Rockwell Moreno? What would redshirting Matthew Stafford in 2006 have accomplished other than costing the ‘Dawgs 1,749 passing yards? Urban Meyer, an extremely successful coach both on the sideline and on the recruiting trail, is absolutely unequivocal upon this point:

One thing that we do guarantee is that we don’t redshirt you. There is no such thing as a redshirt at Florida anymore. We try to make that real clear. If you’re playing, you’re going. Now, if you don’t play, you have an extra year. But there is no redshirt policy at Florida. We eliminated that about two years ago. Every freshman comes in and plays. Now, if you’re not good enough to play, they won’t play.

How’s that working out for the Gators? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

If (Heaven forbid) Murray loses significant playing time to injury in 2010, it may be necessary for Gray to take over under center. Barring that, though, the Bulldogs should see playing time at the positions they have practiced. Gray is a receiver. Mason is a quarterback.

In Wednesday’s game-simulation scrimmage, Mason completed 50 per cent of his passes and did not throw an interception. While that falls somewhat short of setting the world on fire, Mason averaged 13.8 yards per completion, comparable to Murray’s 14.1 average. The question being asked throughout Bulldog Nation deserves a definitive answer, which we need to receive early in the fourth quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Bulldogs need to improve their depth at quarterback. Murray, at times, will need to be spelled. Gray, having shown his loyalty to the program, ought to be allowed to remain at the position he has elected to emphasize. Mason has shown promise and is a good judge of character. Those facts add up to one conclusion:

Hutson Mason should not be redshirted. The true freshman QB should take his first snaps in Sanford Stadium in the second half on September 4, after the home team has built up a big enough lead on the Ragin’ Cajuns. Nothing would please me more than to be able to sit here a year from now and write about the budding 2011 quarterback controversy between Georgia’s two stellar sophomore signal callers. I seem to recall a quarterback controversy involving David Greene and D.J. Shockley.

How’d that work out for us? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Go ‘Dawgs!