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SEC head coach endorses Stetson Bennett as Heisman Trophy candidate: ‘He’s a helluva quarterback’

Let the record show that South Carolina’s Shane Beamer — not Kirby Smart — is the first head coach to publicly endorse Stetson Bennett as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

“Absolutely, he’s a helluva quarterback and I said after the game or on the teleconference, but anybody who is still referring to him as a game manager they are doing that kid a disservice,” Beamer said on Wednesday.

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It was just four days that Bennett validated the Heisman Trophy hype that’s building around him with a 16-of-23 passing, 284-yards, 2-touchdown passing effort.

Bennett also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 36 yards on 3 carries, including a nifty 11-yard run that saw him make a Heisman-friendly highlight with a sharp juke move that left a Gamecocks defender grasping for air.

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Bennett first opened eyes with a strong performance in the 49-3 season-opening win over Oregon, showing off improved mechanics and operating with great efficiency in an offensive scheme Todd Monken built around his strengths,.

Bennett’s ability to throw the deep out and make good decisions at the line of scrimmage and after plays break down have elevated his game dramatically from a season ago, when Coach Kirby Smart said he struggled at times with “bonehead” mistakes.

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The 2022 version of Bennett certainly left an impression on Beamer, who was teammates at Virginia Tech with Michael Vick, the third-place finisher in the 1999 Heisman Trophy race.

“He’s got a strong arm, he can make so many throws, he’s got such a command of the offense, they’re not turning the ball over at all,” Beamer said on the SEC teleconference.

“He can make plays with his feet as you saw Saturday against us.”

Beamer cited two plays where South Carolina had “the perfect call” against what Georgia was doing, bringing edge pressure into a planned bootleg play.

“He turned right into the guy coming off the edge, and most quarterbacks get sacked right there,” Beamer said. “But he not only gets the ball away, but he gets the ball away for a completion both times, so little things like that.

“He has great weapons around him and if they continue to win football games and he continues to play like that, he would certainly be somebody I would consider voting for.”

Bennett has yet to play in the fourth quarter of a game this season, but his passing numbers are competitive with most anyone else in the nation.

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• Completion percentage .730 (7th nationally)

• Pass efficiency rating 183.49 (11th nationally)

• Pass yards per game 317,33 (8th nationally)

Per the Caesars Sportsbook, Bennett ranks fourth among the Heisman Trophy favorites after Week 3, improving from 18-to-1 before the South Carolina to 12-to-1.

Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud is the Heisman Trophy favorite at 2.75-to-1, followed by Southern Cal quarterback Caleb Williams (3.5-to-1) and Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (4.25-to-1).

After Bennett (12-to-1), other top candidates:

Oklahoma QB Dillon Gabriel 16-to-1

Michigan QB J.J McCarthy 22-to-1

Alabama LB Will Anderson 40-to-1

USC WR Jordan Addison 40-to-1

Tennessee QB Hendon hooker 40-to-1

Georgia TE Brock Bowers 50-to-1

Texas RB Bijan Robinson 50-to-1

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. 50-to-1

Michigan RB Blake Corum 50-to-1

Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders 50-to-1

Clemson RB Will Shipley 60-to-1

Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs 60-to-1

North Carolina QB Drake Maye 60-to-1

Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei 60-to-1

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