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Georgia football learning more and more about back-up quarterback Stetson Bennett
Perhaps no player team in the country knows the importance of having a capable back-up quarterback than Georgia. Each of the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have suffered a season-ending defeat thanks in large part to a back-up quarterback.
In the 2017 season, the Bulldogs blew a double-digit lead in the national championship game as then-freshman Tua Tagovailoa led a comeback for the Crimson Tide. Jalen Hurts stepped in for an injured Tagovailoa in the 2018 SEC championship game and once again completed a double-digit comeback.
If you're wondering who Alabama's current back-up is, that would be Mac Jones. He doesn't have the reputation that either Tagovailoa or Hurts did, as Jones is instead mostly known for his role in a disastrous fake field goal attempt that essentially summed up last season's national championship game.
In each of those same two seasons, Georgia has had a very talented back-up to turn to in the event that starter Jake Fromm was either hurt or ineffective. Those two back-ups were so overqualified for their roles that they're now the respective starters at Ohio State Justin Fields and Washington Jacob Eason.
Georgia wasn't able to reload the back-up position with a 5-star quarterback in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Instead, it turned to someone who already had a working knowledge of the Georgia system, in Stetson Bennett.
If Fields and Eason looked exactly how 5-star quarterbacks should, Bennett looks like how you would envision a one-time walk-on quarterback.
But Bennett isn't that anymore. He's the next-man-up at quarterback in the event that something happens to Fromm.
Bennettt saw his first real action as Georgia's back-up in Saturday's win over Murray State. He completed 9 of his 13 pass attempts for 124 yards. It wasn't a perfect debut, as he did throw a pick-6. But he also threw for 2 touchdown passes, including a perfectly placed strike to Demetris Robertson.
"He's worked hard for it and it's something he's earned," Fromm said of Bennett. "It's awesome to go out and see him play well and execute the offense."
Kirby Smart wanted to withhold judgment on Bennett's performance until he had a chance to review the game field. When Smart met with the media on Monday, he gave a very thorough assessment of his back-up quarterback.
"He did some good things, but he did some things that he doesn't typically do in practice and you really can't point to why," Smart said. "I think that's probably true of every quarterback. I mean, Jake had things in the game that we missed some opportunities that we ask, why in practice did you do this and what made you do this different in the game?'"
Smart is almost certainly referencing the pick-6 that Bennett threw on the offense's first drive of the third quarter.
Bennett wasn't the only quarterback Georgia added after Fields transferred to Ohio State. The Bulldogs also signed D'Wan Mathis with the intention of both competing for the back-up job. But after offseason brain surgery, Mathis has not yet been cleared for contact.
That meant that Bennett would receive just about all of the back-up reps in fall camp. And while Bennett's game reps still need sharpening, Smart has seen enough in practice to believe that will happen
"Stetson's got to continue to improve his decision making, what is he going to do when he gets flushed out of the pocket, Mike points, a lot of different things," Smart said. "But he's willing to work on it and he's committed to that. I love the way Stetson competes in practice and the way he's growing as a player."
Bennett didn't get a chance to play in the Vanderbilt game, as the game never truly got out of hand. Afterward, Smart lamented that fact, as he knows Bennett needs game reps. When Tagovailoa and Hurts entered their respective games with at least 50 passing attempts on the season.
That's why against an outmanned Murray State team, Smart didn't hesitate to bring Bennett into the game. After the Bulldogs took a commanding 35-7 lead in the second quarter, Smart sent in Bennett for Fromm. And on Bennett's first snap of the game, a pass play was called that resulted in a 22-yard completion to tight end John Fitzpatrick.
Saturday should be a real chance to get Bennett some more quality reps, as the Bulldogs are a 33-point favorite against the visiting Arkansas State Red Wolves.
And given the Bulldogs face off against Notre Dame next week before embarking on the meat of their SEC schedule, it could conceivably be the last real chance we get to see what Bennett can bring to the table in the event that Georgia has to turn to its back-up quarterback.
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Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 11, 2019
Who We Are | Solomon Kindley: "Know what you are grinding for. If you know what you are grinding for, you got that chip on your shoulder, it's going to pull you through the sunny days, the rainy days, and the cloudy days." #ATD #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/Bq3GARou6e
Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) September 12, 2019
@KirbySmartUGA Sept is Craniofacial Acceptance Month. @zeus1_34 and my son James were both born with the same special trait. Kids can be tough, but James and Zeus have persevered. James is an A+ student, starting QB, shortstop, shooting guard, and #1 tennis player. #toughkid pic.twitter.com/ZATstG4tnY
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DawgNation (@DawgNation) September 11, 2019
Good Dawg of the Day
Every year as we move away from the events of 9/11, I find the images of the towers falling don't impact the way they use to. I now try to focus on individual stories from that day to help remind me of the emotions I felt. This year I want to focus on the dogs of 9/11 pic.twitter.com/8vFeAcntcp
Clays & Birds (@ClaysandBirds) September 11, 2019
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