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July 21, 2011

Murray a believer

HOOVER, Ala. - Aaron Murray has heard the hype surrounding this year's freshman class, otherwise known as "The Dream Team."

But were they really that good? Did they have what it takes to be successful college players?

Those were the types of questions Georgia's quarterback was asking before seeing the group first hand in 7-on-7 drills with the rest of the Bulldog vets.

He no longer needs convincing.

"I was pretty pumped about some of the recruits, but I definitely had the feeling that yeah, they might have been good in high school, but they've got to prove themselves when they get here," Murray said Wednesday at SEC Media Days. "They definitely have proven themselves with their work ethic this summer. They're in the 6 a.m. workout group, all of them. They work out every morning and they're grinding, working hard."

Murray then took it a step further.

With depth an issue at certain positions for the Bulldogs this fall, the redshirt sophomore steadfastly believes a good number will see considerable playing time right away - perhaps even start.

"I wasn't sure they were going to be that good but they're every bit as advertised," he said. "I'm excited to see what they can do in pads, but right now there's definitely a lot of talent and I would say there's a good seven or eight of them who could start right now, that are ready to play this year, that would definitely contribute and help this team win."

Murray saved his biggest praise for Valdosta wideout Malcolm Mitchell.

At 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds, Mitchell was the nation's top-rated cornerback by Rivals.com, but doubled on offense and set a Valdosta single-season reception record with 77 catches for 1,419 yards and seven touchdowns.

Apparently, Mitchell has made a quick impression as has fellow frosh Justin Scott Wesley.

"Malcolm Mitchell I think can start for any team in the country," Murray said. "Justin Scott-Wesley is another kid who can easily come in and play right away, too. We've definitely got some talent on the outside."

Defensively, Brandon Boykin laughed that junior college transfer Johnathan Jenkins can't help but stand out in a crowd.

At 6-foot-4 and 350 (give or take) pounds, Jenkins is already showing he's got the potential to be someone special.

"Oh, man, he's a beast. We were going to eat one day and you have to go around the little things (turnstiles) to get through and he was blocking both of them. We had to wait for him to slide through. He actually had to go through the door, and that was when he first go there," Boykin said. "He's got into the strength and conditioning program and gotten even bigger and stronger. Seeing him in full pads with that No. 6 on is going to be funny."

Naturally, all eyes will be on running back Isaiah Crowell, who many expect to jump right in and start for the Bulldogs from Day 1 against Boise State.

On Wednesday, head coach Mark Richt said Richard Samuel would be first on the depth chart going into preseason, although many still feel the job is Crowell's to lose.

"He's going to have a lot of expectations, the biggest advice I could give him is just learn the playbook. He's got all the talent in the world, everybody can see that," Murray said. "You could tell from high school. When we go out and do drills he's got more talent than I've seen in a while a running back. He can do it all. It's just how much of the playbook he can handle which will determine how much playing time he gets. If he just keeps working and keeps his nose in the playbook he will be good to go."

Richt just wants Crowell to do the best that he can.

"We don't expect Isaiah to save the program. We don't expect Isaiah to put the team on his back," Richt said. "We just want Isaiah to learn what to do, to do things the Georgia way and try to do anything he can to help the team win as a freshman. How far that goes, I don't know."

Murray said he and a few of his teammates have already taken steps to ensure Crowell gets off to a good start.

Back in early June, Murray said that he, center Ben Jones and linebacker Christian Robinson and "a couple of other players" went to his dorm for a chat.

"We just wanted him to know that no matter what, we are here for you," he said. "We said we're going to push you, we were going to do this and we were going to do that, but in the end we are going to make sure that you're ready to go."

Murray said Crowell, along with the rest of the class, have responded to that message well.

"He's responded great. He has been showing up for pretty much everything," Murray said. "They came in with the mindset that they're going to work and they've been working hard."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.



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