ATHENS — Kirby Smart didn’t hesitate to name Stetson Bennett the starter when asked about his quarterback situation on The Paul Finebaum Show on The SEC Network on Tuesday.
“Stetson is our quarterback, he did a good job in the off week of working to improve and gain more experience,” said Smart, who revealed earlier in the week Bennett continued to get all the reps with the starters.
“We were also able to get some more of the other guys reps during the off week, so that was a good thing.”
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (3-1) play at Kentucky (2-3) at noon on Saturday at Kroger Field in Lexington.
Smart outlined how Georgia has invested its first-team repetitions into Bennett, working to help the redshirt junior quarterback improve his skills in preparation for his fourth career start.
The Bulldogs’ fifth-year head coach conceded its hard to replicate the sort of circumstances that led to Bennett’s most recent performance, an 18-of-40 passing night that gained 269 yards and 2 touchdowns along with 3 interceptions in the 41-24 loss at Alabama.
“It’s hard to simulate that, because we don’t have games,” Smart said. “But we try to do it with competitive third downs and pass periods.”
To be fair to Bennett, a former walk-on who left UGA to play a season of junior college football before returning in 2019, he’s still relatively new to working with the first team.
“The first goal was to do a better job protecting the ball, in terms of (using) two hands while in the pocket and also running it,” Smart said, identifying the off-week priorities. “He had the one (fumble) against Alabama that came out, he scooped it up. He runs with the ball in one hand, so we’re making a concerted effort to improve that.
“Second was decision making, and downfield throws and check downs, and then the third thing was putting us in the right play and making good decisions.”
Opposing defenses have enough game film on Bennett to be able to adjust to his strengths and weaknesses, and get a feel for how offensive coordinator likes to call the game.
Alabama took away Bennett’s favorite target, Kearis Jackson, limiting him to just two catches on seven targets.
Bennett focused heavily on freshman receiver Jermaine Burton, who had four catches on 11 targets.
The ability to buy time and find passing lanes were other things the Georgia coaches looked to help Bennett with, as he had five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
“He worked really hard on those things, and some of it was movement in the pocket, which is about awareness,” Smart said. “I thought he leaned a lot from Jake (Fromm) in terms of pocket awareness, where the hole is at in the pocket , where’s the rush, where can he step up.”
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