Hutson Mason says it hasn't been a distraction.
But the redshirt sophomore quarterback admitted Saturday that the decision whether or not to transfer is something that continues to occupy his mind.
"I ponder on it a lot, and it's extremely tough," Mason said after practice Saturday. "It's not like I'm out there looking at schools or anything, but it's in my mind. After the bowl, it will be a decision I have to make and do what I think is best for my future."
In two years as Georgia's top backup at quarterback, Mason has played well, completing 27 of 47 passes for 356 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
There's just been no problem.
Starter Aaron Murray has been fantastic, and enters the Outback Bowl against 12th-ranked Michigan State quickly rising up Georgia's all-time quarterback charts.
His 33 touchdown passes this fall stands as a new school single-season record, and unless the Tampa, Fla. native should decide to leave Georgia prior to his senior year, it's virtually assured that barring injury, Mason will never see the field except in a backup role.
"Coming into the year I knew I was behind a very good quarterback in Aaron," Mason said. "I knew I probably wasn't going to see the field unless he got injured and I certainly did not expect him to have a horrible season, because that's just not the type of player he is. "
Mason said he's not looking for sympathy. He understood the situation when he signed with Georgia three years ago after a record-setting career at Lassiter High.
But as he's continued to improve, his desire to play has grown.
"I wouldn't say it frustrated me. I just took it as the situation I was in and handled it the best I could. As each game got closer and closer to the end of the season, it becomes more and more of reality and you have to come and face it," he said. "I've a decision to make. It's tough. I try not to let it gain all my focus because I've got one more job and one more opportunity to focus on and that's Michigan State. If I'm called on, I've got to go in there and try to help us win the game but it is on my mind, I do have a big decision to make and hopefully I will make the right one."
Although any decision will be his, Mason said he has reached out to a few people, including former Bulldog quarterback D.J. Shockley,who elected not to leave Georgia after being stuck behind David Greene.
After Greene graduated in 2004, Shockley led Georgia to the 2005 SEC crown.
"He really didn't say whether to stay or whether to go," Mason said of Shockley. "We talked about his situation and mine."
Mason said he would certainly consider asking head coach Mark Richt to let him redshirt, in order to put a year of separation between he and Murray.
"It's something I'll have to sit down and talk with Coach Richt about, see how they feel about it. I don't think that would be something they would be opposed to," Mason said. "I want to stay here. I really do. I want to be at UGA, I love this place more than I expected I would. My goal is to stay here; I want to stay here. I just have to find out whether that allows me to play the most or not."
If Mason transfers to another FBS school, he would have to sit out a year due to the NCAA's transfer rule. Mason could play next fall if he decided to play on the FCS level.
"I'm not really thinking about that, but if all else failed, I guess I would consider it (FCS)," Mason said. "But I'd like to stay Division I."
Getting to practice every day against the Bulldogs' No. 1 defense has helped his confidence grow.
"The most important thing to me is I want to play, whether that's here or somewhere else. I don't know where that's at," said Mason, who was also initially offered by Iowa and later Virginia and Mississippi State. "I know I can play here, I've seen the improvements I've made and I probably go against the No. 2, 3 or 4 defense in the country every day and to see yourself succeed and make strides every single day, it gives you confidence that you can play at this level and you can play anywhere."
NOTES: Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said that redshirt freshman Ken Malcome is currently working with the first team at tailback, followed by Isaiah Crowell and Brandon Harton. Richard Samuel dressed out Saturday and went through warm-up drills but was held out of contact. He is expected to be ready for the Outback Bowl.
Starting offensive guard Chris Burnette missed Saturday's practice suffering from a "bug," according to offensive line coach Will Friend. With Dallas Lee still rehabbing his broken leg, true freshman Watts Dantzler worked with the first team at right guard. Friend added that offensive lineman Kolton Houston will play guard moving forward.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he expects freshman outside linebacker Sterling Bailey, who underwent foot surgery early this week, will be limited during winter workouts but is expected to be ready for preseason.
Bobo said he expects freshman receiver Justin Scott-Wesley to be a big contributor moving forward. "He needs to drop a little weight, but we think he's going to be a very explosive receiver moving forward. He's physically a very strong kid who's going to add a lot to that group," Bobo said. "I have no doubt he's going to be a great player for us."
Bobo also had kind words for left tackle Austin Long, who "continues to make tremendous strides."
Defensive end DeAngelo Tyson (ankle) and linebacker Mike Gilliard (ankle) continue to rehab their respective injuries. Both are hopeful for the Outback Bowl.
Georgia continues its bowl practice Sunday afternoon before wrapping up in Athens on Tuesday. After Christmas, the Bulldogs will re-convene in Tampa, Fla. on the 26th.