Very few questioned Aaron Murray's talent and potential entering the 2010 season. But since he was taking over as the starting quarterback in his redshirt freshman season, phrases like ‘Managing the game,' and, ‘Just take care of the football,' were attached to his outlook.
So what did Murray do?
He posted 24 passing touchdowns, with only six interceptions. He had a passer rating of 162.7 (however that's calculated), and he added four rushing touchdowns. With two touchdown passes in the Liberty Bowl, Murray will set Georgia's record for passing touchdowns in a single season.
Those numbers aren't bad for a player who was supposed to be subscribing to the doctor's code of, ‘Do No Harm.'
Talk of limiting the playbook with Murray in charge ceased after the first couple of games, as an inconsistent running attack led to more emphasis on passing success. Plus, Murray was without star receiver A.J. Green for the first four games of the season.
Despite all the factors working against Murray early, he became a consistent threat both passing and running, leading the offense to 30 or more points in the final seven games of the season.
While Murray's success isn't a shocker, his ability to take care of the football while also making plays was exceptional. With three seasons left to improve on a suburb start, Murray only figures to get better.
Durham's season was a study in a senior stepping up big when his team needed help the most. With Green suspended, Durham embraced the role of go-to receiver, all while struggling with nagging injuries. After Green's return, Durham still made noise, making tough catches in traffic and also showing off a surprising ability to get behind defenses.
By season's end, Durham had gone from what most considered a possession receiver at best to a guy many fans think will catch a gig in the NFL.
The numbers: 29 catches for 612 yards and three scores.
Those statistics aren't exactly flashy, but a 21.1 yards per catch is arguably the most surprising stat of the year. Yeah, Durham's average was higher than Green's. You didn't call that happening before the season. Don't even try to claim you did.
Sanders Commings went from battling for time in nickel packages in fall camp to solidifying himself in the starting lineup this season.
First year defensive coordinator said he would reward players who practiced and played well, no matter what age or class. Commings proved Grantham to be a man of his word, as he bypassed senior Vance Cuff by the fourth week of the season.
Sure, sophomore Branden Smith's concussions helped open the door, but Commings took full advantage of the opportunity. He finished tied with the most picks on the team (3) and proved he could help provide support to stop the run. Despite missing the season finale due to injury, Commings' 34 total tackles were second most among cornerbacks.
Commings is now a more confident guy around the media, as he is no longer entertaining talk about his abilities on the high school baseball diamond. The conversation has turned to what he's currently doing on the football field.
Dent's play on the field isn't all that surprising considering he was a senior entering into his final chance to leaving a lasting impression.
But add in the fact he didn't physically take part in a single moment of fall camp, and Dent's accomplishments are quite impressive. Dent, who broke his toe in late July, finished with a team-high 122 total tackles. That tally is 46 tackles more than runner-up Bacarri Rambo.
Dent finished second in the SEC with tackles, and added 2.5 sacks, too.
By season's end, Dent was the guy Grantham leaned on to lead the unit. And he did all of this after missing the entire month of August. The Atlanta native says his time spent watching practice during fall camp helped give him a new perspective.
No doubts here.
Freshman Alec Ogletree entered a crowded safety race this offseason. As the new kid on the block, ‘Tree' had to surpass Shawn Williams, Nick Williams and Jakar Hamilton to get on the field—all older players with impressive skills in their own right.
Despite the depth, Ogletree wound up the starter by season's end. His emergence sent Nick Williams to linebacker and Hamilton to corner, as Ogletree appears to have entrenched himself into the starting lineup for years to come.
Sure, there were growing pains. There were instances of blown coverage. But there was also a growing experience that saw ‘Tree' go from a special teams killer to a young man confident enough to begin making his own calls in defensive packages. Against Auburn, Ogletree finished with seven solo tackles, tied for the team lead.
Expect great things from Ogletree moving forward.
I began calling Gates, ‘The Blessing,' after he became a late addition to last year's signing class. I meant the nickname as a joke, because his scholarship only came open after another player (whose name I do not speak of) dumped Georgia at the last minute.
Little did I know, Gates would actually be a blessing.
Quick story: When Dean Legge and I went to Greenville High School last February to see Gates, an opposing team's assistant football coach we bumped into gave his opinion of Gates. He said he wasn't impressed with Gates, couldn't believe he held SEC offers and figured he was years from being ready to contribute. Well, I guess you can't believe everything you hear.
Gates proved that coach wrong, rising from late addition to true freshman starter this season. His insertion into the lineup helped an offensive line struggling to find its way. Although the results weren't glaring, Gates more than overachieved this season.
He figures to be Georgia's starting right guard for years to come.