And the comparisons may not end there. In 2003 Richt was reinventing his offensive line which was bolstered by talented future NFL draft picks, but thin and exceptionally young. Russ Tanner and Max Jean-Gilles were the returning backups set to be starters. We also had Daniel Inman, Bartley Miller and Josh Brock among a slew of other young and very green players.
If you remember, 2003 was the year Coach Richt's recruiting difficulties for the offensive line really began to rear its ugly head. In '03 the Georgia offensive line surrendered a whopping 45 sacks. Coach Friend was spending his first year as a grad assistant in Athens that season, so I'm sure he remembers it well.
Enough with the history lesson and informational background. Let's compare Greene's stats to Murray's and see what we can take from it.
Pretty clear that Richt was trying to throw the ball more in Greene's junior season than any other. DJ Shockley would've shared more of that load had he not injured his knee that season. We'll get to the reason why Georgia was passing more in a minute. But first I think it's worth more than a glance to notice that despite passing more in '03, Greene had his worst TD/Int ratio that season. Part of that could've been due to lack of faith in the offensive line. Or...
...it could've had to do with the running game. Richt's rushing leaders in 2003 were Michael Cooper and Kregg Lumpkin; two freshmen trying to replace a workhorse that had just carried the team to the GA Dome. And neither back averaged better than 52 yards a game. It was very much a running back by committee approach, one that Richt has used since for the most part. But it was a stark contrast to the previous season when Musa Smith carried the load almost entirely (260 total carries compared to Tony Milton's 82 for the season).
Back to present day, I don't believe the offensive line that tops this off season's "worry list" is nearly as dire as back in 2003. How could it be really? That season and the next set the industry standard for how to develop a patchwork offensive line for trench warfare in the Southeastern conference. But this season's line will have to gel quick. And if Theus is just half the talent we think he might be then that would go a long ways toward solidifying things.
The bottomline has been and always will be how well do you run the football, and how well do you protect it. Murray's stats dwarf Greene's in the first two seasons' comparison. Still, Murray garners a lot of criticism. Much of it unfair to be quite honest. But the one thing most everyone agrees on, from those of us outside the hedges to Coach Bobo up in the booth, #11 has to protect the football. As nice as those 35 touchdown passes were last season, fourteen interceptions is bad. Then add to it eight fumbles, three of which were lost, and you have a turnover margin issue that affects the one numeral that matters most - wins.
So the conclusion is clear, and likely one we've known for some time: like Greene, Murray is plenty experienced and plenty talented. But he can't carry the team. The better the protection and the better the rushing totals, the better the season we'll see from our third year quarterback.
Stats courtesy of the following
three sites: georgiadogs.com,