ATHENS, Ga. (BVM) – University of Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett has a journey that would fit any Hollywood script. Born and raised in Blackshear, Georgia, all Bennett ever wanted to do was be the quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs. This passion saw him walk on to the team, transfer to JUCO Jones College and transfer back into the Georgia program where he sat at the bottom of the depth chart.
Fortune paid off in his favor, however, as two highly-touted transfers, Jamie Newman and JT Daniels, didn’t play during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and day one starter D’Wan Mathis struggled out of the gates. Enter Bennett who played in eight games throwing for 1,179 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions while rushing for 54 yards and two more scores.
However, with Daniels returning from injury during the summer camp of 2021, Bennett again was relegated to backup. However, Daniels would struggle with injuries early in the season and his fellow quarterback would step up greatly in his absence, so much so that the Georgia coaches decided to keep Bennett in the starting lineup even when his adversary was healthy.
The Georgia native would make his home state and dream school proud, as he led the Bulldogs to a 12-1 record the rest of the way and their first national championship in 40 seasons. Bennett was named the national championship game MVP after he completed 17 of 26 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 33-18 victory over SEC foe Alabama. Not bad for a guy once considered too undersized to be a quarterback at the Power 5 level.
So what does the Bulldogs standout have to do this season? Just win the whole thing again. Though he’s been through a lot of adversity as the underdog, Bennett’s first true test will come this season as, for the first time in his Division I college career, teams will be preparing primarily for him.
The quarterback will have a lot to make up for on this Georgia team too. The Bulldogs lost a record 15 players to the NFL Draft in April including five defensive players taken in the first round alone. In addition to losing some key defensive players, the Georgia offense lost contributors in wide receiver George Pickens, running backs James Cook and Zamir White, guards Justin Shaffer and Jamaryee Sayler and tight end John Fitzpatrick.
This doesn’t mean Bennett is left without anything to work with. Three of the team’s top four receivers from a year ago are returning including first-team All-American tight end Brock Bowers, who led the Bulldogs in both receptions and receiving yards a season ago. In the backfield, though the team’s top two runners made their way to the NFL, Georgia has three running backs returning in Kenny McIntosh, Kendall Milton and Daijuan Edwards, each of whom played in at least eight games and had over 200 rushing yards on the year.
Of course, holes in a historic defense will also have to be addressed by the coaching staff. However, with top five recruiting classes nationally each of the past five years, the Bulldogs are loaded with talented players itching to make their presence known on Saturdays.
Even with all the returning talent and influx of new players, in football, the eyes are almost always on the guy under center which places a huge emphasis on Bennett once again leading the Bulldogs to glory. Last season, Bennett performed admirably in his role where he finished with 2,862 total passing yards with 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Bennett was efficient in his role too as, despite playing in fewer games than some of his colleagues, he finished the season ranked fourth nationally in passing efficiency (176.7), fourth in yards per completion (15.47) and third in yards per pass attempt (9.97).
Georgia will go as far as Bennett will go. Fortunately for Bulldogs fans, Bennett has had to travel far in his career to get where he is today and has the passion and dedication to continue helping his program. While he may not have come into Georgia as the most highly-touted and skilled prospect, Bennett has consistently proved the doubters wrong and will look to do so again as the Bulldogs look to become the first team to win back-to-back national titles in a decade.