Stetson Bennett

Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Volunteers Preview

By: Robert Craft news services

Tennessee and Georgia square off Saturday afternoon between the hedges in a showdown that dictates the SEC East and the landscape of the college football playoffs.

Tennessee has scored 40+ points in all five of their SEC games. The Vols are also coming off their best defensive performance of the season after holding Kentucky to six points and 205 yards (total offense).

On the other side, Georgia just took care of business with a 42-20 performance against Florida. The Bulldogs are hitting on all cylinders, and not just on one side of the football.

The Dawgs defense has earned a lot of hype over their past seasons, but this year the offense is the only unit in the SEC that’s currently averaging both 200+ yards rushing and 300+ yards passing per game.

Georgia and Tennessee enter the battle unbeaten and on top of the college football world. Who will stay there? And who will fall?

Tennessee has risen to the occasion once this season in a similar matchup, knocking off Alabama 52-49 earlier this season.

The reigning national champions pose a real threat for this hot handed team, but the preparation remains the same for Josh Heupel and the Vols.

Georgia is 8-0 on the season, and they did go through about 10 quarters of football this season where they clearly underperformed: between Kent State, Missouri, and the first half of Auburn- they showed real signs of dysfunction and had fans convinced that they could lose.

Despite the lackluster play at the time, in each game the Bulldogs prevailed and looked dominant once the final whistle blew.

Stetson Bennett leads an offense that averages 41 points on 530 yards per game. The quarterback has thrown for 2,349 yards with 9 touchdowns and 3 interceptions while completing 67 percent of his passes. Bennett has also rushed for five scores, and that’s an underrated part of his game.

“I think he’s undervalued in some respects with his feet. He’s explosive, he’s twitchy,” Heupel said of Bennett. “When it’s not right in the pocket, he extends plays. That can be him throwing on scrambles, but also him tucking the ball and making plays. He made a couple against us last year that changed the game. You have to do a great job of bottling him up.”

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker remains squarely in the Heisman Trophy race, but the senior quarterback’s focus is on his first goal: Atlanta in December.

Jalin Hyatt’s stats in the last four weeks (three of those SEC games) have just been ridiculous. In the Vols’ last four games, Hyatt has 584 yards receiving and 11 touchdown catches.

Tennessee’s offense is fun to talk about, I get it, but the most eye-opening thing about Saturday’s thrashing of Kentucky was the defensive dominance.

Kentucky ended the night with just 205 yards of total offense. Chris Rodriguez was held to just 64 yards rushing. The defense forced three turnovers.

Let’s be clear, Georgia remains great on defense. They’re the only team holding SEC opponents to less than 100 yards rushing (86.4 ypg) and in five SEC games they’re allowing 189 yards per game in the air.

One thing I feel confident about is that Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp will have the Bulldogs Defense ready for the high-octane Vol’s offense.

Slowing down Tennessee, to me, means keeping them in the 30s. Something no SEC defense has done yet.

With that, I think Georgia will also score, and control the clock. Saturday, Tennessee will show up prepared to play in a monster game like this under the national spotlight, but the lights will be too bright for them.

Georgia’s Defense and Stetson Bennett’s big game experience will lead the Dawgs to victory.

Georgia 48   Tennessee 31

QB1 Room

By: Robert Craft news services

It’s about that time in Athens, Ga. You can smell it in the air. We’re weeks away from the Georgia Bulldogs padding up for preseason camp.

For the first time in 41 years, Kirby Smart and company will be starting the 2022 NCAAF season as the defending national champions.

There are certainly a lot of questions to answer, and competitions to be had.

Losing a record 15 players to the NFL Draft creates uncertainty at some key positions.

However, several starters on offense, as well as a couple of key leaders on the defensive side of the football, will help ease any concerns.

I’ll take the time to provide a preview of the quarterback group in red and black.

Stetson Bennett returns after leading Georgia to the National Championship in 2021.

Starting 12 of 15 games including each of the last 11, Bennett threw for 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns on 185-of-287 passing.

There were times where he didn’t look great – turn on the tape from Florida (10-of-19, 161 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions) or the SEC Championship Game against Alabama (29-of-48, 340 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions).

However, there were also times that he was spectacular. Bennett tied the program record for touchdowns in a single game with five scores in the first half alone against UAB.

The Blackshear, Ga. native threw three touchdowns over Kentucky in a top-15 SEC Game of the Week. He didn’t throw a single interception in that game or their game against Auburn.

Two touchdowns against Missouri and four against Georgia Tech with 255 yards in both contests helped the Bulldogs finish the regular season undefeated.

Then, of course, there were the Playoffs when Bennett earned Offensive MVP of the Orange Bowl against Michigan and the CFP Championship Game against Alabama, combining for 537 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

So, like lots of quarterbacks, Bennett has lots of good that comes with the occasional bad. You just have to be able to help him out and put him in good situations.

Because Bennett isn’t perfect and because he wasn’t the highest-rated recruit, some question Kirby Smart’s decision to stick with him.

Carson Beck seems to have solidified himself as the backup. Beck, a four-star and the No. 16 quarterback in the Class of 2020, threw for 274 yards during Georgia’s G-Day spring scrimmage.

Beck was awarded Mr. Football in the state of Florida for 2018 after leading Mandarin High School to a Class 8A state championship.

Brock Vandagriff also offers a talented option off the bench. A former five-star and the No. 4-ranked quarterback in the Class of 2021 from right down the road in Bogart, Ga.,

Vandagriff has the ability to make plays with both his arms and his legs. Georgia fans have been calling for a player like that for quite some time.

Finally, Gunner Stockton is the fresh face in the quarterback room. He’s just a freshman, don’t expect to see him often.

He’ll be busy learning the playbook and running the scout team.

Bennett elected to return for another year with the Bulldogs, which is a large reason why I rank the Dawg’s quarterback room the very best in the SEC.


By: Kipp Branch news services

1.Bryce Young, Alabama – Young is the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner who accounted for 47 touchdowns last season. The redshirt sophomore will have Alabama once again in contention for a National Championship. Young is without a doubt the top quarterback in the SEC and the entire country going into the 2022 season. Young could be the first name called in the 2023 NFL draft for a team that needs a franchise quarterback.

2.Stetson Bennett, Georgia – When you lead a team trailing with 8 minutes left to victory in the National Championship game, you land high on any QB ranking list. Bennett is a winner that folks not associated with UGA like to dismiss. He won the national title game with his arm with two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to lead UGA to that win over Alabama. The QB that is ranked higher on this list than Bennett, ended his 2021 season with a 79-yard pick six to Kelee Ringo. The Mailman will deliver once again this fall for the Georgia Bulldogs.

3.KJ Jefferson, Arkansas – Jefferson is an exceptionally large man. The Razorbacks’ 6-3, 250-pound dual-threat talent led a resurgence for Razorback football in 2021. Jefferson has Arkansas believing that they can supplant Alabama in the SEC West. If Jefferson plays well in 2022 then Arkansas should make some noise in the SEC West. I hope I am not over-hyping Jefferson.

4.Will Rogers, Mississippi State – Rogers can sling the football in Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack. He led the league in passing yards per game in 2021. He passed for 4,700 yards and completed almost 74% of his throws. This kid is good. You never know what you are going to get when you play against a Mike Leach team, but this QB makes State a dangerous team to go up against in 2022. Can you imagine Rogers leading a Texas A&M team in search of a topflight quarterback?

5.Hendon Hooker, Tennessee – Is Hooker that good or is it Josh Heupel’s system. Hooker passed for 31 TDs in 2021. Year 2 in the new system should reap comparable results. Tennessee should be able to put up a lot of points this fall. Game with the Vols could turn into shoot-outs in 2022 with Hooker under center. The Florida game will be huge for Hooker and Tennessee early in the season. Win that one and look out SEC. Tennessee has been down for a decade, but they will not be down much longer. The SEC is much better when Tennessee is relevant.

Just Missing the Top 5: Spencer Rattler, South Carolina – Rattler will have to make the adjustment to the SEC where much better team defense is played from the Big 12. South Carolina feels like Rattler can get them near the top of the SEC East. The Gamecocks host UGA in September. UGA fans are not laughing because there have been some tough trips to Columbia is last 20 years.

Will Levis, Kentucky – Quietly Levis has become one of the top tier QB’s in the conference. Kentucky is a sleeper team in 2022. He is tough and can use his legs. He makes all the throws needed.

Jaxon Dart, Ole Miss – Dart will be under the guidance of Lane Kiffin. Enough said there. Ole Miss QB’s will put up enormous numbers.


By: Jeff Doke news services

On early signing day this year, the University of Georgia once again racked up some serious commitments.

The Dawgs are currently the #3 recruiting class for the year, behind Texas A&M and Alabama.

The majority of the top signees were on the defensive side of the ball – including the much-heralded Marvin Jones, Jr. – but arguably the top prospect was five-star in-state QB Gunner Stockton.

Normally, a top-rated signal-caller signing with your school would be cause for hope, if not outright celebration. For Georgia fans in the Kirby Smart era, it’s cause for measured concern.

The University of Georgia has had five 5-star quarterback commits in their locker room since Kirby Smart took over between the hedges in in December of 2015; Jacob Eason, Justin Fields, JT Daniels, Brock Vandagriff, and the previously mentioned Stockton.

For someone not familiar with UGA football, this statistic looks amazing. One would think that the offense over the last six seasons would have been stellar. While the Dawgs have put up decent offensive numbers – and have improved every year over the last three – they haven’t been coming from those highly-touted players.

To a large number of UGA fans, therein lies the greatest concern they have with Coach Smart.

The story of Jake Fromm is well known in Georgia lore. He took over for the injured Eason in 2017 and never looked back, taking the Dawgs to the National Championship Game.

Eason would transfer after that season. In 2018, Fromm held off the advances of Fields (and the cries from Dawg Nation to give Fields more snaps), contributing significantly to the latter’s transfer to Ohio State.

One four-star dispensing of two five-stars. One must wonder if history is repeating itself and must worry if it can repeat itself again in the future.

JT Daniels was supposed to be the starter this year. Coach Smart said it multiple times in the offseason, and the fact that Daniels was healthy had many mentioning him in early Heisman talk.

Alas, he didn’t stay healthy, and his status as starter was brief. Stetson Bennett’s performance has been well-documented for both good and bad throughout the year, and the fact that with Daniels and Vandagriff on the sidelines leads many to question Coach Smart’s decision process when it comes to his field generals.

Regardless of what happens in the Michigan matchup in the Orange Bowl and beyond, Coach Smart will have some big decisions to make for 2022.

With the arrival of Stockton, Daniels and Bennett still having a year of eligibility left, and Vandagriff and Carson Beck still on scholarship, the Georgia Quarterback room will be a crowded one.

With the NCAA installing a one-time limit on the transfer portal, and Bennett’s well-documented love of all things red & black, you would expect “The Mailman” and JT to still be around next year unless they decide to test the waters in the NFL draft.

Honestly, I don’t see either of them doing so after this season. Do Beck and Vandagriff hang around? Hard to say.

Don’t get me wrong; I love what Kirby Smart has done for football at UGA. I love what Stetson Bennett has done this year, save for the SEC Championship, obviously. The fact that our quarterback situation is an embarrassment of riches is a problem that 99.44% of all CFB programs would love to have.

Kirby Smart knows how to recruit quarterbacks. He has shown it multiple times in his tenure in the Classic City and continues to show it with the rising 2022 class of recruits.

To me, the big question that I really don’t want to ask is “why?”

And it’s a question I’m fine with not having the answer to.


Smart Or Not?

By: Robert Craft news services

First and foremost, I am a huge fan of Kirby Smart.

After six years, some honest and constructive assessments seem fair game.

Kirby is hands down the best recruiter UGA has ever seen and probably the best in college football. The Athletic Board has given him a blank check for several hundred million dollars of new and upgraded facilities.

The UGA fan base is one of the most loyal, loud, rabid and die-hard in America. They show up and show out. Kirby has been given every possible resource at his disposal. He has proven himself as a phenomenal recruiter. He has not yet proven himself to be a phenomenal head coach.

Some guys are great defensive coaches. Kirby, Will Muschamp certainly qualify. Some guys are great offensive coaches. Todd Monken appears to be one of the best they have ever had at UGA.

But being a great Coordinator does not mean you will be a great Head Coach, just ask Muschamp and Mullen.

So far, Kirby has been a better than average Head Coach, and he has shown growth and improvement during his six years.

Clearly there are other coaches who have done more with a lot less talent and sub-standard facilities. Kirby is building a program for the long haul. No shortcuts. But to quote Kirby, “you’re either elite or you’re not” and Kirby is not an elite coach … YET.

Elite professionals work as hard improving themselves as they do improving others.

They don’t let egos or stubbornness impede their personal growth. I don’t know if that is what is happening with Kirby this season or not, but the next few weeks will certainly answer the question.

Kirby has tried beating Bama twice with Stetson Bennett. He failed both times.

He has more than enough film to prove he is not going to beat his mentor with Stetson Bennett. He also saw Auburn take Bama to 4 OT ‘s by playing man defense and pressuring Young with a constant blitz.

Georgia has three of the brightest defensive minds and through stubbornness or ignorance, they stayed in zone defense, with no pressure, and allowed Young to pick the Dawgs apart. Auburn had 7 sacks; Dawgs had zero.

Elite coaches will ADMIT their mistakes and make the necessary corrections. Time will tell if Smart has that skill set or not. And soon, we will see if Kirby can become an elite coach.

If he continues to do the same thing and expect different outcomes, then we will know Georgia hired a phenomenal recruiter, and an above average head coach.

Flame away if you like, but these are my constructive thoughts. Good news is you won’t have to wait but about a month to find out if I’m right or not.

Reevaluate the quarterback situation and get JT Daniels ready to play. I don’t know if it will happen but I do believe it needs to. I know many Dawg fans want to see Daniels under center against Michigan.

UGA has to get healthy and get some guys ready to play.

The STAR/nickel position got exploited against Alabama. I think the staff needs to get Kamari Lassiter or Javon Bullard or whoever ready to play winning football going into the playoffs.

The bottom line is Kirby Smart has built an Elite Program but can he win the BIG GAME?

The Quarterback Room

By: Robert Craft news services

The eighth ranked Florida Gators topped the #5 ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday in the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, taking control of the SEC East at the midway point in the 2020 season.

Florida was led by Senior quarterback Kyle Trask. Trask completed 30 of 43 passes for 474 yards, 4 touchdowns and an interception. Trask became the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 4 plus touchdowns in 5 consecutive games.

Trask was a low three-star quarterback coming out of Manvel, Texas, where he played behind D’Eriq King. Trask’s composite score was 0.7984 and ranked the 2123rd player in the country.

Georgia’s starting quarterback Stetson Bennett was a high three star with a composite score of 0.8304. Bennett was replaced by four-star quarterback D’Wan Mathis, whose composite score was 0.8992.

After the game on Saturday, whining Bulldog fans were making excuses for the loss.

Some were saying ‘we would have won but we have five players out with injuries and a walk on quarterback’.

Another said I really miss Jake Fromm. I also heard Bennett could not start for Valdosta State University. Injuries are part of the game, but the quarterback position at Georgia is another issue.

Georgia’s quarterback issues started when Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State. The Georgia coaching staff selected Fromm over Fields and the rest is history. Fields is currently the front runner for the Heisman Trophy.

In January, Jamie Newman, the Wake Forest graduate transfer, announced he was transferring to Georgia. On September 2, Georgia’s projected starting quarterback opted out of the 2020 season.

Many speculated that five-star transfer from USC J.T. Daniels would assume the starting job. Daniels has yet to see the field due to medical clearance on his knee. Daniels was the 18th overall in the 2018 class and threw for 2,672 yards as a true freshman in 2018.

D’Wan Mathis started the opening game against Arkansas but was benched in the second half for former walk-on, Stetson Bennett. Bennett has done a very serviceable job for the Bulldogs leading them to victories over Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky. Bennett gives UGA the best chance to win.

Georgia’s quarterback problems can be traced to a couple factors: coaching, development and offensive systems.

Georgia’s offensive coordinators/quarterback coach under Kirby Smart have been Jim Chaney 2016-18, James Coley 2019 and Todd Monken 2020. Three coordinators in three years, how can a player be developed?

The product on the field in big games prove that UGA quarterbacks are not being developed or coached up to their true strengths.

Kirby Smart has brought in three different coordinators to run a spread offense in Athens, but Smart’s football DNA is to run the ball and play stout defense. The strength of this team is its defense and running the football.

However, it appears offenses have finally caught up to Georgia’s defense. LSU sliced and diced the Dawgs in last season’s SEC Championship Game and Alabama did the same three weeks ago.

Florida handed Georgia their second loss of the season by a score of 44-28.

The defeat also makes it very unlikely for the Bulldogs to claim its fourth straight SEC East title.

It also created questions at the quarterback position moving forward.  Who should start at quarterback: Bennett, Daniels, Mathis or Carson Beck (true freshman for Jacksonville)?

Wait until next year when another five star comes to Athens in Brock Vandagriff.

Bulldog fans, accept your loss to the better team last week and stop making excuses! It is embarrassing!