LOS ANGELES — Kirby Smart usually doesn’t care at all what the media has to write or say about his program. It’s not his job to do PR for his football team.
But the Georgia head coach, fresh off winning a second-straight title, wanted to make sure that Georgia fans out there knew just how important the scout team was for the Bulldogs.
As he had answered his final question, he could’ve just left and gone off celebrating. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Matthew Stafford was waiting nearby to congratulate both Smart and Bennett, who first rose to prominence as a scout team quarterback.
“Our defensive scout team did the most unbelievable job,” Smart said. “When we got TCU, I called them all in. I had the coaches meet with them. We made them meet and become this defense. And we said we’re going to do it better than they do it; you’re going to watch tape, sit in here, learn how to do it.”
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One of those scout teamers was 2023 signee CJ Allen. He practiced with the team during bowl prep after enrolling early. He doesn’t yet have the bus schedule down for his classes, which started this week in Athens.
But he knew how to get lined up and give the Georgia offense a look it would see during Monday’s game. Safe to say it worked, as Georgia scored on 10 of its 12 possessions and scored a national championship game record of 65 points.
“We had guys be their guys and do their defense exactly right. Until the last day we were walking in there, they were giving an unbelievable look,” Smart said. “That set our offense up for success. Scout team makes a difference, and we had a hell of a scout team to give these guys a look.”
It wasn’t just players on the defensive scout team who went that extra mile, as those on the offensive side did as well. Quarterback Gunner Stockton served as the scout team quarterback all season, repping as Will Levis, CJ Stroud or whichever Georgia quarterback the Bulldogs happened to be playing that week.
Perhaps no player better understands the importance of scout team than Bennett. Were he not giving hell to the Georgia defense during the 2017 season, maybe he doesn’t have the confidence and knowledge that he could make plays against elite college athletes. The scout team led him to becoming the greatest quarterback in Georgia history and a two-time national champion.
Like his head coach, Bennett passionately explained the significance of the scout team for this group of Bulldogs.
“They’re in there watching film of TCU’s defense to run their defense, which is it – that’s special,” Bennett said. “And they do it because they care about this team too, and they put in the work too, and they’re here too, and they love and want to win just as much as we do, right? They’re not going to get on the field, so they’re going to make the guys who are getting on the field better.
“So those guys are selfless and damn good football players too.”
Even in a 65-7 win, players like Stockton, Allen and Luke Collins didn’t see the field for Georgia. But because of the work they put in, they were able to contribute to a championship team. That is something they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
And it will probably help turn a few of those players into guys who one day end up making big plays in a national championship game.
How Kirby Smart celebrated winning the national championship