Kentucky defensive coordinator: Georgia football’s Stetson Bennett ‘best QB, probably, we’ve faced all year’
ATHENS — Stetson Bennett’s story at Georgia is far from finished, and there are plenty more opportunities to build to his growing legend.
Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White compared Bennett to Tom Brady and said he’s probably the best quarterback the Wildcats have seen.
“Facing Bennett in college is kind of like facing Brady in the NFL, in that he’s seen so much,” White said. “He’s got so much experience. We’ve got to try to find a way to give him something he hasn’t seen.
“He’s the best QB, probably, we’ve faced all year. No disrespect to anyone else we’ve seen with his command; Hendon Hooker’s playing at an extremely high level; it’s just a testament to how well he’s playing.”
Tennessee beat Kentucky 44-6 on Oct. 29 in Knoxville, with Hooker completing 19 of 25 passes for 245 yards and 3 TDs while running for another TD.
Bennett, a 25-year-old, sixth-year quarterback who began his career as a walk-on, has helped lead the Bulldogs to a 10-0 record and No. 1 ranking this season.
Bennett has had more ups than downs playing in an offense featuring shorter, high-percentage passes and plenty of rollouts and runs to cater to his strengths.
The awards committees have taken note.
Bennett is one of three finalists for the Burlsworth Trophy, which goes to the top former walk-on in college football. He’s also one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which goes to the nation’s top quarterback.
ESPN reported on Wednesday that Bennett ranks No. 5 in its Heisman Trophy watch, re-emerging after throwing for 289 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-19 win over Mississippi State last Saturday.
Bennett might seem like a long shot to win the Heisman Trophy, with Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud and Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker the heavy betting favorites in Las Vegas, and North Carolina’s Drake Maye and USC’s Caleb Williams putting up more impressive statistics.
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But Bennett leads the nation’s No. 1-ranked team, and there’s a value to that, even if his passing TDs and passing efficiency might pale by comparison.
SEC legend and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow told DawgNation before the Bulldogs’ 27-13 win over then-No. 1 Tennessee that Bennett shouldn’t be counted out of the Heisman Trophy race.
“It’s absolutely not over for Stetson,” Tebow said. “So much of it is what have you done lately, and that creates hype.”
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Bennett and the Bulldogs play at 3:30 p.m. at Kentucky in a nationally televised CBS game before finishing the regular season with Georgia Tech in a noon ESPN game.
“Quite frankly, I’m really surprised that he hasn’t had much Heisman buzz,” White said. “He is playing at the kind of level. He does not get enough credit in terms of his command of the offense, his ability to distribute all over the field, his ability to create with his legs.
“He knows where to go with the ball. He’s in real command back there. He makes the right reads. He’s playing as well as anybody.”
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Bennett’s final chance to impress will come in the SEC Championship Game at 4 p.m. on Dec. 3 against LSU in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Certainly, that’s where Alabama quarterback Bryce Young clinched last year’s Heisman Trophy, accounting for 4 touchdowns on 421 yards passing and 40 yards rushing against a Georgia defense that featured five first-round NFL draft picks.
Here’s a look at how Bennett stacks up statistically among ESPN’s Top 5-ranked Heisman Trophy candidates:
(National rank in parenthesis)
(1) C.J. Stroud, 188.16
(2) Hendon Hooker, 181.81
(3) Drake Maye, 178.89
(8) Caleb Williams, 166.42
(26) Stetson Bennett, 152.70
(3) Drake Maye, 3,412
(10) Caleb Williams, 3,010
(13) Stetson Bennett, 2,895
(14) Hendon Hooker, 2,888
(18) CJ Stroud, 2,750
(T-1) C.J. Stroud, 34
(T-1) Drake Maye, 34
(T-3) Caleb Williams, 31
(T-14) Hendon Hooker, 24
(T-58) Stetson Bennett, 14
(1) Drake Maye, 399.6 ypg
(T-7) Caleb Williams, 329.3
(T-7) Hendon Hooker, 329.3
(18) Stetson Bennett, 303.9
(29) C.J. Stroud, 283.3