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Kirby Smart updates back-up quarterback battle

ATHENS — Jake Fromm is going to be the starter for Georgia when it takes the field on Vanderbilt on Aug. 31. And it is looking more and more like Stetson Bennett will be the back-up to Fromm at the start of the season.

There are two reasons for that assumption. The first is that freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis has still not yet been cleared following his brain surgery from May. Mathis has been able to practice and partake in 7-on-7 drills, but he is not ready for contact.

But the other reason has been Bennett’s play so far during fall camp. His strong play continued during Saturday’s scrimmage, where Bennett impressed Kirby Smart with his execution against the first-team defense.

Related: Back home at UGA, QB Stetson Bennett hopes to get a real shot this time

“Stetson had a good day today. I thought Stetson, he executed the offense,” Smart said. “He executed well. He moved around the pocket well. He did some good things. Third-down period, I want to say he went six or seven of eight when it was twos on twos. Converted a lot of third downs.”

This isn’t Bennett’s first time through fall camp with Georgia, but it is the first time he’s done it as a scholarship quarterback. Bennett transferred to Jones County Junior College for the 2018 season. He then signed with Georgia’s 2019 signing class in December, a late addition following the transfer of Justin Fields.

Bennett is not the biggest quarterback in the world, given that he’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. But that hasn’t mattered so far in his time at Georgia.

One of the highlights of the scrimmage was Bennett leading the second-team offense on a 13-play scoring drive against the first-team defense. During the drive, the Georgia offense picked up a number of third-down conversions.

“I’m proud of Stetson for that because he has worked really hard on doing that,” Smart said. “He still has some areas he can improve on from checks to making the right decisions late in games, two-minute and things like that.”

Bennett first impressed Georgia players and coaches back in the lead up to the Rose Bowl, as he worked as the scout team quarterback to help prepare the defense for Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“I hated playing against him,” former Georgia defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said. “I [once] got juked. He broke my ankles. He’s an undersized guy but he will make everything happen.”

For as well as Bennett played on Saturday, he’s certainly not going to unseat Fromm anytime soon. Last season, Fromm threw for 30 touchdowns compared to just 6 interceptions. He’s led Georgia to back-to-back SEC East titles and a Rose Bowl victory.

But one only has to look back at last season to highlight the importance of having a back-up quarterback. Clemson and Alabama both won games after their starting quarterback had to leave the game due to an injury.

Georgia is a heavy favorite against Vanderbilt. That should mean the Bulldogs will have an opportunity to play a number of second-string players. That could be Georgia’s first real chance to see what Bennett looks like in-game action, as he has not thrown a pass yet in a competitive game.

The season-opener is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff and will air on the SEC Network.

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