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Georgia football learning more and more about back-up quarterback Stetson Bennett
Perhaps no team in the country knows the importance of having a capable back-up quarterback than Georgia. Each of the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have suffered essentially a season-ending defeat thanks in large part to a back-up quarterback.
In the 2017 season, the Bulldogs blew a double-digit lead in the national championship game as then-freshman Tua Tagovailoa led a comeback for the Crimson Tide. Jalen Hurts stepped in for an injured Tagovailoa in the 2018 SEC championship game and once again completed a double-digit comeback.
If you’re wondering who Alabama’s current back-up is, that would be Mac Jones. He doesn’t have the reputation that either Tagovailoa or Hurts did, as Jones is instead mostly known for his role in a disastrous fake field goal attempt that essentially summed up last season’s national championship game.
In each of those same two seasons, Georgia has had a very talented back-up to turn to in the event that starter Jake Fromm was either hurt or ineffective. Those two back-ups were so overqualified for their roles that they’re now the respective starters at Ohio State — Justin Fields — and Washington — Jacob Eason.
Georgia wasn’t able to reload the back-up position with a 5-star quarterback in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Instead, it turned to someone who already had a working knowledge of the Georgia system, in Stetson Bennett.
Related: Why you should hold off on comparing Jake Fromm to Justin Fields, Jacob Eason after week 1 win
If Fields and Eason looked exactly how 5-star quarterbacks should, Bennett looks like how you would envision a one-time walk-on quarterback.
But Bennett isn’t that anymore. He’s the next-man-up at quarterback in the event that something happens to Fromm.
Bennett saw his first real action as Georgia’s back-up in Saturday’s win over Murray State. He completed 9 of his 13 pass attempts for 124 yards. It wasn’t a perfect debut, as he did throw a pick-6. But he also threw for 2 touchdown passes, including a perfectly placed strike to Demetris Robertson.
“He’s worked hard for it and it’s something he’s earned,” Fromm said of Bennett. “It’s awesome to go out and see him play well and execute the offense.”
Kirby Smart wanted to withhold judgment on Bennett’s performance until he had a chance to review the game field. When Smart met with the media on Monday, he gave a very thorough assessment of his back-up quarterback.
“He did some good things, but he did some things that he doesn’t typically do in practice and you really can’t point to why,” Smart said. “I think that’s probably true of every quarterback. I mean, Jake had things in the game that we missed some opportunities that we ask, ‘why in practice did you do this and what made you do this different in the game?'”
Smart is almost certainly referencing the pick-6 that Bennett threw on the offense’s first drive of the third quarter.
Bennett wasn’t the only quarterback Georgia added after Fields transferred to Ohio State. The Bulldogs also signed D’Wan Mathis with the intention of both competing for the back-up job. But after offseason brain surgery, Mathis has not yet been cleared for contact.
Related: Back home at UGA, QB Stetson Bennett hopes to get a real shot this time
That meant that Bennett would receive just about all of the back-up reps in fall camp. And while Bennett’s game reps still need sharpening, Smart has seen enough in practice to believe that will happen.
“Stetson’s got to continue to improve his decision making, what is he going to do when he gets flushed out of the pocket, Mike points, a lot of different things,” Smart said. “But he’s willing to work on it and he’s committed to that. I love the way Stetson competes in practice and the way he’s growing as a player.”
Bennett didn’t get a chance to play in the Vanderbilt game, as the game never truly got out of hand. Afterward, Smart lamented that fact, as he knows Bennett needs game reps. Tagovailoa and Hurts entered their respective games with at least 50 passing attempts on the season.
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