ESPN ranks Stetson Bennett, top Georgia QBs of 2000s behind Colin Kaepernick, Rex Grossman
ATHENS — Three Georgia quarterback cracked ESPN’s list of the Top 75 collegiate quarterbacks since 2000, but it could have easily been four with a couple of others deserving consideration.
Some interesting and controversial names — Rex Grossman (No. 30) and Colin Kaepernick (No. 31) — surfaced before the first Bulldog came up on the ESPN pay-site list at No. 37, Stetson Bennett.
Kaepernick put up giant numbers at Nevada, winning WAC Offensive Player of the Year honors twice and becoming the only D-1 player to pass for more than 10,000 yards and rush for 4,000 yards.
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But raw numbers weren’t the only consideration on this list, which was headed by Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Auburn’s Cam Newton, Texas’ Vince Young, Florida’s Tim Tebow and LSU’s Joe Burrow.
The ESPN list obviously did some picking and choosing of where it elevated wins and losses over statistical accomplishments -- or SEC all-time leading passer and former UGA quarterback Aaron Murray would be higher than 43rd on the list.
Bennett, meanwhile, is simply the most accomplished quarterback of the 2000s when it comes to championship game and playoff contest prowess, his awards recognition for big-game play unparalled.
A former walk-on and junior college transfer, Bennett was offensive MVP of two CFP Championship Games, an SEC title game, a CFP Orange Bowl and a CFP Peach Bowl, often saving his best for last.
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Bennett, however, was never named an All-American nor even selected first-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches, opening the door for some discussion of where he ranks among other elite Georgia quarterbacks.
Could Murray or SEC all-time wins leader David Greene have won titles with Bennett’s smothering defensive supporting cast, which included at least seven first-round NFL draft picks?
Conversely, would Bennett have become the SEC all-time wins leader or leading passer playing for former Georgia coach Mark Richt?
Or might Bennett have gotten Richt and the Bulldogs over the hump in a way Murray and Greene did not?
It’s water cooler fodder, of course, and no one should sell Bennett short when one considers his tremendous achievements came despite a well-documented strained relationship with former OC Todd Monken.
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And, what about the guy Bennett was resigned by UGA in 2019 to back up?
Jake Fromm led Georgia to the brink of a national title in 2017 with wins in the SEC Championship Game and Rose Bowl before the UGA secondary famously blew a second-and-26 play in overtime of the 26-23 loss.
Fromm’s 37-5 record is on par with Bennett’s 29-3 mark, and the Georgia quarterbacks had similar passing numbers.
Bennett had 66 TD passes, 21 interceptions, 8,429 passing yards and a career 65-percent completion rate.
Fromm had 78 TD passes, 18 interceptions, 8,224 yards and a career 63-percent completion rate.
Fromm is not ranked in the Top 75, but his numbers don’t appear too different than those of Florida QB Kyle Trask, who the Disney-owned company ranked No. 48 overall.
Trask was 16-6 as a starter and had 69 TD passes with 15 interceptions, 7,386 yards and a 68-percent completion rate.
Then there’s Murray, the SEC’s all-time leading passer who is ranked No. 43 on the list with 121 TD passes, 41 interceptions, 13,166 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns.
Somehow, Florida’s Rex Grossman ranks 13 spots ahead of Murray at No. 30.
Grossman had 77 TDs, 36 interceptions, 9,164 yards and 6 rushing touchdowns.
For what it’s worth, Murray ranks himself behind two Georgia quarterbacks: Bennett, and former No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Matthew Stafford.
Stafford is another Bulldog who did not make the list despite 7,731 passing yards with 51 TDs and 33 interceptions and a feat of leading Georgia to three straight bowl wins including the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the Capital One Bowl.
Of course, it’s also hard for anyone to forget about the SEC’s all-time winningest quarterback, David Greene. He was No. 69 on the list with his 42-10 record that included 72 TD passes, 32 interceptions and 11,528 yards passing.
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D.J. Shockley didn’t have the career numbers to make the list, but his one season starting under center at Georgia left many wondering what might have been.
Shockley set a school record by accounting for 6 touchdowns in his first career start, a 48-13 win over No. 18 Boise State, and he threw 24 TD passes with only 5 interceptions that season. Shockley left great memories in Atlanta, coming through with an MVP performance in the SEC Championship Game win over LSU.
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Ranking quarterbacks is no easy chore, as each are asked to do different things by difference coaches playing in difference systems.
But looking at how and where the Georgia quarterbacks were ranked in this particular list, it would be fair to say there is argument for some to be ranked higher than others.
Bryce Young (No. 19), C.J. Stroud (No. 20), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 21), Jalen Hurts (No. 25), Justin Fields (No. 29), Mac Jones (No. 38), Eli Manning (No. 47).