South Carolina won’t be the only SEC East time with a one-and-done starting quarterback this season.
Division rival Georgia is in a similar situation, with senior Hutson Mason taking over for Aaron Murray. Like Dylan Thompson, Mason has experience filling in at quarterback but will have only one season to have the job all to himself. Unlike Thompson, Mason considered transferring earlier in his career so he could get more playing time.
“Hutson and I had at least three or four different conversations about what he should do,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “The thing I appreciate about him is when he came to me, he was like, ‘Hey, coach, if I was your son, what would you tell me?’ And I didn't say, ‘Hey, I think you should stay no matter what.’ But I talked about, ‘If you stay, this could happen. If you go, there's no guarantee of anything good happening for you.’ ”
Mason completed 67-of-110 passes for 968 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions last year.
Never miss a local story.
“He’s really sacrificed a lot for this team,” Richt said. “He’s staying because he loves Georgia and he especially loves his teammates. But he also knew that this season was going to come and he was going to be surrounded by a lot of skill guys, a lot of great backs, receivers, some veteran linemen, a defense that should be matured from a year ago. I think the stage is set for him to have a tremendous senior year.”
Confident coach. South Carolina was picked to win the Eastern Division, but Richt believes it’ll be his Bulldogs.
“Obviously, what's important is what happens at the end of the year,” Richt said. “Earlier I got asked that question. I said, ‘I'm not happy to be named number two. I'm not going to start cheering that we're number two.’ I think in the end it's going to be Georgia.”
Bad memory. Georgia plays in Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 13 for the first time since the 35-7 walloping the then-No. 5 Bulldogs received from South Carolina in 2012. Bulldogs linebacker Ramik Wilson still remembers that game well.
“We got killed. It was bad,” Wilson said. “That’s not going to happen this year. We have a new team. We have all the pieces, a lot of great players all around. There is no doubt in my mind we should do big things this year.”
Making progress. Third-year Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze can point to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier to show how far the Rebels have come in his two seasons.
“One good thing about media days is coach Spurrier isn’t talking about Ole Miss as much, wanting to play us every year,” Freeze said.
Prior to Freeze’s first year, Spurrier said he’d rather be playing Ole Miss than LSU that season.
“At that point who wouldn’t have wanted to play Ole Miss?” Freeze said.
Close crop. Freeze was sporting a shorter-than-normal haircut Thursday and part of the season is because he lost a golfing bet with Spurrier last month in Destin, Fla.
“Spurrier takes credit for that,” Freeze said. “If he won our match, come to Media Day, you had to buzz cut your hair, so that’s why my hair is so short today. Really there is some truth to that and there’s another story behind it, too, but we’ll give Spurrier the credit for that.”
Daddy’s girl? Freeze’s 15-year-old daughter Ragan may be the biggest football fan in her house.
“She keeps a ranking of the SEC coaches. If you’re at any of our games and viewing her an hour before game time, she's at midfield trying to find the other head coach,” Freeze said. “I don’t know that I will give you the whole ranking, but number one in her book is (LSU coach Les) Miles. In Baton Rouge, he spent 10 minutes with her talking. Then last year when they came to our place, she was out there without me talking to him.
“She lives and dies with this football now. It’s probably not as healthy as it needs to be.”
Career path. Bulldogs wide receiver Chris Conley answered as many questions about his budding filmmaker career as about football Thursday. Conley wrote, directed and starred in “Retribution,” a 26-minute Star Wards fan film that has been viewed more than 350,000 times. The movie was filmed in Sanford Stadium and features a brief cameo from Richt.
Georgia’s coaches have been very supportive of Conley’s moonlighting, he said.
“August 1, camp starts and filmmaking stops,” he said.
New additions. Richt and Alabama coach Nick Saban are both new grandfathers.
“My concern is when she does go to kindergarten and she doesn’t get a standing ovation when she walks in the door, how is she going to react because she gets a lot of attention at my house,” Saban said.
Toe the line. Mark Richt said he is OK with Georgia having a stricter drug policy for its athletes than most SEC programs. Georgia’s policy includes a suspension for 10 percent of the season on a first offense.
“Georgia ends up suspending their guys a little bit sooner in the policy, which I’ve got no problems with,” Richt said. “There’s other things we have in the policy, too, as far as the ability to educate them about what’s happening, giving them counseling, making sure that they’re healthy, make sure there’s no addiction issue we need to deal with. It’s a lot more than just the punitive part.
“There’s a punitive part. There’s an educational part, then we love ’em. You made a mistake. You have these consequences. Now let’s turn in the right direction and become a better man for it.”