Will Stetson Bennett return to UGA next season for a sixth year of college football? Or will Bennett ride out on top as a legend, making Monday’s national championship game his final appearance as quarterback for the Bulldogs?
Bennett, who will turn 25 years old in October, has remained coy about his future plans when asked about it several times this week.
However, he may have quietly revealed his intentions during an interview with ABC-TV’s “Good Morning, America” on early Tuesday morning.
The former walk-on was specifically asked about his future plans:
“I’m here to play football for the University of Georgia,” Bennett told GMA. “And then … once that’s over, whatever my interest will be — which is hard, when you’re playing college football, because you don’t get internships, you don’t get all that stuff, you don’t get the time off that other students get. But once that is over with — I’m majoring in economics, I’d like to go to law school.
“But for the next year? I’m gonna play football. I’ve got a decent amount of years. Hopefully, I live until at least 80. So, we’ll say 60 years to not play football. I’m going to play football this year — we’ll see where. We will see if I can trust the decisions made by the staff, and we will see where I’m going to play.”
It was the last part of that answer where Bennett let a few words slip, saying “he was going to play football this year– we’ll see where,” and then the part about trusting the staff. The GMA host did not ask Bennett a follow-up question about the trust comment.
Interestingly, Bennett’s GMA appearance was Tuesday morning, shortly before he joined coach Kirby Smart and teammate Lewis Cine to meet with reporters. And during that later press conference, Bennett was not nearly as open about next season, saying, “We’ll wait a second on that one for me … I don’t want to spill out my personal stuff out here on the table. So, we’ll keep that between me and Coach Smart.”
Bennett’s options are (1) return to UGA next season, (2) transfer to another school to play a final year, or (3) let his final college game be a legendary win over Alabama for a national championship.
Regarding trust, UGA’s coaching staff displayed unwavering faith this season in Bennett, who took the No. 1 job when JT Daniels was injured and never gave it back. There were a couple of games, against Florida and Alabama in the SEC Championship, where Bennett could’ve easily been benched in favor of a healthy Daniels after poor play, but the coaches trusted Bennett.
In Monday’s national championship, Bennett had a rough start with a pair of 3-and-out offensive series to open the game. He also was sacked five times, committed two intentional grounding penalties, and coughed up two fumbles, including a surreal turnover in the fourth quarter that nearly gave the game away. Fortunately for UGA, Bennett responded to the adversity with some of his best football of the season, throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the game’s final eight minutes to help the Bulldogs win the title for the first time since 1980. “I wasn’t going to be the reason we lost,” he said afterwards.
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If Bennett decides to return for next season, there’s no guarantee that he’ll start for the Bulldogs, even as likely as it seems. UGA coach Kirby Smart is famous for making players earn their jobs each year -- even veteran players. If you recall, Jake Fromm led the Bulldogs to an appearance in the 2017 championship game as a freshman, but Fromm wasn’t officially the starter the following season until he took the field in the opener.
This past year Smart named Daniels the starter in the offseason, and even carried him to SEC Media Days as one of the team’s leaders. But the coach did not hesitate to bench Daniels and his 7-0 record in order to go in a different direction when he felt like a change was needed. The ensuing debate over the QB situation was the team’s most polarizing topic this season, although many in the Daniels’ camp quieted down – for now – after Bennett’s MVP performance in the Orange Bowl.