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ATHENS, Ga. – Hutson Mason has some big shoes to fill in his one and only season as Georgia's starting quarterback.
So he's trying to pick up a few pointers from an even bigger name.
With spring practice starting this week, the senior has been watching lots of film on three-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, looking to learn some things that might help ease the transition from longtime starter Aaron Murray.
"Brady does some footwork stuff that we're trying to put into our game," Mason said.
Not a bad guy to emulate.
"You're always looking for different things that can help your guy," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "Hutson is a guy that we've got to do a good job keeping on balance. Sometimes, his feet get a little bit close together and he gets up on his toes. We're looking at Tom Brady and how he keeps a good base in the pocket."
The Bulldogs will go into the season with a new quarterback for the first time since 2010. That's when a pair of redshirt freshmen — Murray and Zach Metterberger — battled for the job, though the competition turned out to be short-lived. Metterberger was kicked off the team, Murray won the job, and all Mason could do was wait.
And wait. And wait.
Murray could've left for the NFL after the 2011 season; instead, he stayed with the Bulldogs. Everyone figured he was a lock to turn pro after his fourth year on campus, but Murray decided to come back for his senior season.
Now, finally, Mason is getting his chance.
"There's no second shot at this," he said. "This team's legacy and mine, too, is built on 12 games. What's to hold back for? Let go all in, hold everyone accountable, and try to bring a championship back to Athens."
There was a time, certainly, when Mason considered a transfer. But his heart was with the Bulldogs, so he took a redshirt year right in the middle of his career, allowing him to have at least one season on the field after Murray finally exhausted his eligibility.
Along the way, Mason grew up.
"There's more than just football out there," he said. "I bust my butt to do all I can, but at the end of the day, my identity is not in football. It took me a few years to find that."
Mason has already given his teammates an idea of what he can do with the ball in his hands. In the next-to-last game of the regular season, Murray tore up his left knee against Kentucky, giving Mason a head-start on the succession.
In his first career start against Georgia Tech, he led the Bulldogs back from a 20-point deficit, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns to pull out a 41-34 victory in double-overtime. In the Gator Bowl, Mason threw for 320 yards on a rain-soaked day, but a couple of crucial drops in the red zone cost Georgia in a 24-19 loss to Nebraska.
"Those two games really helped a lot as far as how guys are looking at me as a leader and stepping into that new role," Mason said. "It was a little awkward when Murray first got hurt. All of a sudden, a guy who's been the face of the franchise for four years was hurt, and everyone knows his career is over. They're kind of looking at me to step in."
Mason certainly proved to his teammates that the quarterback position is still in good shape.
"It's great to have a guy who's been in the system for so long," center David Andrews said. "I don't really see any difference from Aaron to Hutson in terms of leadership or anything like that. It's just more of the same."
Mason figures he won't be as nervous as he might've been when runs out for the season opener against Clemson, but there are still plenty of things he's looking forward to. Like hearing his name announced at Sanford Stadium along with the other starters for the very first time (both games he started last season were on the road).
"When you have to wait and bide your time for such a long time," Mason said, "it's the small things you really cherish."
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963