"It just about killed him (to miss a spring scrimmage)," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He just likes to practice. He likes to compete. He's still driven to get better and to compete and do the things you have to do to be special in this league. I think he had a great spring, and I am very confident that this summer is going to be in good hands with his leadership. It's really good to have him back."
Murray, who has 95 career touchdowns, needs fewer than 1,500 yards to pass former Bulldog David Greene (11,528 career yards) atop the SEC standings. He could have that many by the midpoint of the season.
Unless sophomore tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall do all the work. They would not be a bad choice. As freshman, Gurley and Marshall combined for 2,144 yards, with Gurley carrying most of that load (1,385). They are back, and unlike their predecessor Isaiah Crowell, show no signs of being derailed by off-field issues.
"They had tremendous values coming in," Richt said. "They are just smart enough to know, and I think they have enough inside of them from how they were raised to understand the responsibility of the celebrity that they've got. They are focused on their long-range goal of graduating and taking a shot at the (NFL). I see them train in that way. I see them handle their academics that way. I have not heard a peep of anything off the field. I think they have represented themselves very well. They really are representing Georgia well. I am not shocked by it, but I am thankful for it."
Clearing the way for a trio that could be the SEC's top backfield will be a familiar group of offensive line starters. Whether that same group is good enough to contend for another SEC title is yet to be seen. John Theus, Dallas Lee, David Andrews, Chris Burnette and Kenarious Gates should all be better, but sophomore Xzavier Ward could crack into the starting five at right tackle, which could cause a shuffling across the line.
Ward "is a little behind in his leg strength to really move people running the ball. He's just got to continue to get stronger, but pass (protection) I like what I am seeing," Richt said. "And that's a big part of the game. If your tackles always need help in pass protection, it's tough to function. He's just got to get stronger up front. When Burnette gets back, where does it all end up? I don't know. We worked Gates inside some – I know Gates can play tackle or guard. I think Ward is a tackle only. Theus can play tackle or guard. I just don't know where everybody is going to end up. We're just going to try to get the best five out there and try to get a little rotation in there as well."
At wide receivers, Malcolm Mitchell will be expected to carry the load, but the return of Michael Bennett from a torn ACL should help. Senior Rantavious Wooten, junior Chris Conley, sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley and freshman Tramel Terry (who is also coming off an ACL injury) probably will fill out the depth chart, although watch out for freshman Jonathan Rumph, who had a big G-Day game.
While Bennett is expected to be fully healthy in time for fall camp, Terry might come along slower due to the timing of his injury. Whether that affects his ability to compete as a first-year player will be a question for August, Richt said.
"Even though he'll have a clean bill of health to go, will he really know enough and have enough reps to really help us? We'll see, but he's paying attention," Richt said. "He's in every meeting paying close attention. He's asking questions constantly. He really wants to play this year, and I think he really will."
The bottom line for a Bulldog offense that finished third in the SEC in scoring (37.8) and third in yards (467.6) is that it might have to be better this year to keep the Bulldogs in the race while a young defense matures.