Only somehow, some way, on the road to the greatest underdog story in modern college football history, the player everyone should’ve been celebrating all along was cast as — can you believe it? — the villain.
“Yeah, of course I heard it all last year. I know what was being said,” Stetson Bennett IV says now, all of 7 months since leading Georgia where no one (maybe even some of his teammates) believed he could. “It was strange, but I couldn’t get caught up in it.”
… Two years of those who doubted and those who dragged him through social media — where there’s no filter and no brakes — because he wasn’t 6-2 and 225 pounds with a live arm and uncanny athletic ability. Because he didn’t have 5 stars and he wasn’t an NFL scout favorite.
Because if anyone were the reason Georgia hadn’t reached its massive potential, it sure as hell had to be the former walk-on from Nahunta, where everything you need to know about the unique journey of Stetson Bennett IV can be told over one of those meal deals at Jerry J’s Family Kitchen. Right off Highway 301, before you run up on the Piggly Wiggly.
“How could anybody blame one player for a team not winning? It makes no sense,” Georgia center Sedrick Van Pran said. “You know how many great quarterbacks never won a championship?”
… A game manager at the most important position on the field, and a quarterback whose own offense game-planned around him. He had limitations early in 2021, and then kept getting better.
The throws were crisper, and more accurate. The decision making improved. The timing and anticipation arrived, and the numbers drastically improved: from 8 TDs and 6 INTs in 2020, to 29 TDs and 7 INTs in 2021.
He found two freshman targets (TE Brock Bowers and WR Ladd McConkey) who combined for 18 TDs, and the next thing you know, the guy who would eventually screw it up became the guy who could do no wrong.
Throw in Greg McElroy for good measure.
“Everyone wanted to blame Stetson Bennett for their loss in the SEC Championship last year when Alabama scored 42 points,” McElroy said. “Unless Stetson Bennett was also playing corner covering Jameson Williams, I don’t know how you could blame him for that performance. Now, he didn’t play well. He forced a couple picks. One pick wasn’t his fault. But either way, as the quarterback at a high-profile school you’re always gonna get way too much credit and way too much blame. The only thing that’s different about Stetson Bennett is he never actually gets the credit. I don’t think it’s fair.
“He is extremely underrated, and if you look at what he did in the fourth quarter of the national championship game, he should be forever beloved by Bulldog Nation. I called the spring game. The second Carson Beck threw a touchdown pass, I saw people lighting up my Twitter feed saying ‘There’s MY quarterback. Stetson Bennett no longer. I want Carson Beck.’ Y’all, it’s a spring game. He’s going against the twos. What are we doing? I think Stetson Bennett is going to get unfairly criticized regardless of how he does.”
‘Course you’ve gotta love the finger pointing at social media and the fan base by both of them. Like the paid media has been fully in Bennett’s corner this offseason, as evidenced by all the preseason All SEC teams Stetson’s appeared on… oh, wait.