It was cold and windy and pretty much a miserable day Tuesday in Athens. But don’t tell that to Hutson Mason. He was having a blast.
For the first time in his career, the junior quarterback took all the snaps with the No. 1 offense. The Bulldogs held their first full-scale scrimmage of the spring Tuesday, and starter Aaron Murray was absent with permission. Georgia’s record-setting senior was in Atlanta being honored as the state’s male athlete of the year at the Peach of an Athlete Role Model Banquet.
Mason, Murray’s chief backup for the past three seasons, was more than happy to step in and take the snaps with the No. 1 offense at Sanford Stadium.
“I’m going to see if I can sign (Murray) up for some more banquets,” Mason quipped.
It was an impressive day for Mason, and not just from a statistical standpoint. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 186 yards and a touchdown, according to the “unofficial official” statistics provided by coach Mark Richt from the closed scrimmage. Richt also listed Mason as having thrown two interceptions, though Mason insists it was one.
“It felt awesome,” said Mason, who still holds the Georgia high school record with 4,560 yards passing as a senior at Lassiter. “I don’t get too many reps with the ones, so getting out there and getting all the reps felt good. I had a lot more time in the pocket.
“I thought we threw the ball well with the conditions, and I thought we ran the ball great. So it was a good day.”
But it wasn’t Mason’s offensive productivity that made an impression on his defensive counterparts. It was his temperament.
Mason and linebacker Amarlo Herrera got into a scuffle during the scrimmage after Herrera slapped Mason on the helmet on a play.
“There was a little scuffle between them,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins recounted. “Hutson swung at him and Amarlo, he’s hot-headed, and he didn’t like that. So he started swinging back, and all six offensive linemen came running and squatted up on Amarlo. His helmet came off, and the defense came up.
“It was a short little scuffle. It was pretty fun. Everybody was just pushing everybody around, no hard blows.”
The heated exchange only endeared Mason to Georgia’s defensive players.
“He doesn’t back down from nothing,” Jenkins said with a laugh. “He tried to come at us a couple of times. We had to let him know, ‘you’ve got a black jersey for a reason. Don’t let us catch you in a red jersey.’”
Said cornerback Sheldon Dawson: “When they got into it, that was crazy, a quarterback with a linebacker. But he showed how tough he was, and that’s a good thing when your quarterback’s tough.”
Mason acknowledged being hyped for Tuesday’s practice. Playing time has been hard to come by behind the record-setting Murray. The Bulldogs agreed to redshirt Mason last season to build a season of eligibility between the two quarterbacks, even though Mason clearly is their best second option.
So when Mason was informed Monday that the first-string offense would be at his command, he was eager to show what he could do,
“It is important,” said Mason, who threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Chris Conley against the No. 1 defense. “It honestly feels like I haven’t played football in so long. … I had the jitters a little bit because I’m not used to going with the ones.”
Richt liked what he saw. “I thought he did a nice job,” he said. “He’s very capable of running the show.”
Christian LeMay took the majority of the snaps with the No. 2 offense and finished 1-of-11 passing for 13 yards. Parker Welch was 5-of-10 for 33 yards and an interception, and freshman Brice Ramsey was 6-of-10 for 51 yards with three interceptions.
“It was a rough day to throw and catch,” Richt said.
Conley led the receivers with three catches for 72 yards. Blake Tibbs caught four for 42, and Malcolm Mitchell added three for 30.
Tailback Keith Marshall led all rushers with 65 yards on 11 carries. Todd Gurley carried twice for 15 yards.
Linebacker Ramik Wilson led in tackles with seven. Freshman safety Tray Matthews had four stops and a pass-breakup and drew praise for his open-field tackling. Sheldon Dawson had two interceptions, and Jenkins, Ray Drew and T.J. Stripling each had two sacks. Freshman linebacker Reggie Carter had an interception.
Etc.: Starting right tackle John Theus, who is recovering from foot surgery, will return to practice Thursday. … Marshall Morgan was 1-for-3 on field goals, but his misses were from 60 and 57 yards. … Richt said he was not informed of any new injuries… . The Bulldogs will scrimmage again Saturday morning.