December 9, 2010

Murray, Jeffrey tops in their class

Thursday's kickoff press conference for the upcoming AutoZone Liberty Bowl at the Racquet Club of Memphis was about what one would expect.

There were plenty of smiles and a few laughs as both Georgia coach Mark Richt and Central Florida coach George O'Leary took turns passing compliments toward each other's team.

That was certainly true when the conversation turned toward the two freshmen quarterbacks, who will be facing off in the Dec. 31 contest being held at Memorial Stadium in downtown Memphis.

From a passing efficiency standpoint, there's none better.

Central Florida's Jeffrey Godfrey and Georgia's Aaron Murray ranked 1-2 among freshman quarterbacks, coming into play with ratings of 165.28 and 162.73, respectively.

"You know, we felt pretty good knowing that we were coming in with the second-rated freshman in America in terms of passing efficiency, only to find out we're going against the No. 1 guy," Richt said. "He's (Godfrey) a special player, but Aaron's pretty special, too."

A true freshman, Godfrey hasn't attempted as many passes as Murray, completing 143-of-209 attempts for 2,042 yards and 13 touchdowns but has proven quite talented with his legs, rushing for 546 yards and 10 scores en route to earning C-USA Freshman of the Year honors.

Godfrey and Murray - who rank 8th and 9th, respectively in passing efficiency, trail just seven elite quarterbacks who have all had teams ranked in the top-10 this year (Cam Newton, Kellen Moore, Ryan Mallett, Scott Tolzien, Andy Dalton, Greg McElroy and Andrew Luck).

Godfrey's completion percentage of 68.4-percent ranks sixth nationally and is not far off of the NCAA freshman record of 69.4-percent set by Moore of Boise State in 2008. Godfrey, who recorded a 9-2 record as a starter and was 8-1 against C-USA foes. His 10 rushing scores trails only Nebraska's Taylor Martinez amongst all freshmen signal callers nationally and tops all true freshmen.

"Jeff is like a lot of freshmen in that not everything he does is perfect, but he has had success taking bad plays and making something good happen," O'Leary said. "He's progressed each week. I think our staff has done a good job of not overloading the playbook too much so to overload or over-burden him. We wanted to make sure we just gave him what he could handle at such a young age."

Murray's passing numbers were certainly more impressive.

The Tampa native completed 188-of-304 passes for 2,851 yards and 24 touchdowns and needs just one to tie the Bulldogs' single-season record for most scoring passes in one year.

Thursday, Murray was one of three Bulldogs (Kwame Geathers and Alec Ogletree were the others) named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

Murray holds the Bulldog freshman record and ranks second in the SEC for total offense by a freshman (3,014) and passing yards (2,851). Murray is tied with former Bulldog standout D.J. Shockley for the Georgia record for touchdown responsibility in a season with 28.

"We knew when we got him that he knew how to prepare. He's one of those guys who just loves the game, he loves his teammates, he loves winning and he loves preparing," Richt said. "Quite frankly, we probably would have played him as a true freshman, but he had some tendinitis in his triceps and elbow area. He's one of those guys in camp and you ask him how his arm is doing and he says fine, because he didn't want to miss a rep or miss an opportunity to compete. It ended up about five weeks where he couldn't throw the football so he probably would have played."

Murray and the Bulldogs (6-6) certainly have O'Leary's attention.

"I have a great respect for that program and what they've done up there and the kind of tradition they have," O'Leary said. "Their record means nothing to me. They're well-coached, they have outstanding players and we feel fortunate to be able to come up here and see what we can get done."

Central Florida (10-3) is ranked 24th in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.

"If you're 6-6 and in a bowl, you expect you're probably going to get to play somebody else with about the same record, but we're going against a Top 25 team and that's exciting for our guys because it gives us a chance to prove that we're still pretty good and capable of beating a champion," Richt said. "We're very excited about this game."

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