Georgia starting quarterback Stetson Bennett IV will return to the Bulldogs for his final year of eligibility, the senior announced on Wednesday. Bennett posted a story to his Instagram account with a Georgia graphic that said “One More Year.”
Bennett led the Bulldogs to their first national championship since the 1980 season after throwing for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama. A lifelong Georgia fan and former walk-on, Bennett threw for 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns on 10.0 yards per attempt in 2021 after earning the starting job midway through the season.
The decision was made public shortly after Week 1 starter JT Daniels entered the transfer portal following a two-year stint with the program. Daniels, a former five-star recruit, transferred to UGA in 2020 after starting one season at USC. However, Daniels dealt with injuries throughout his career, opening the door for Bennett to win the starting job.
Bennett is able to return for a fifth year thanks to a blanket ruling by the NCAA granting every player a free season due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what Bennett’s decision means for the Bulldogs in 2022.
Georgia loses some key production on both sides of the ball, but getting its starting quarterback back for another year brings some much-needed stability as the Bulldogs head into a transitional year. For all the talk of being a game-manager, Bennett had a tremendous regular season to set up UGA’s championship run.
Bennett completed more than 64% of his passes in 2021 and averaged 10.0 yards per pass attempt, which trailed only Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud among Power Five quarterbacks. Stroud had the benefit of potentially three first-round wide receivers, while Bennett did it without top receiver George Pickens for nearly the entire season. He was especially deadly off of play action, averaging 12.8 yards per pass attempt.
Top receivers Pickens and Jermaine Burton are gone, but all-world tight end Brock Bowers should be an All-American in 2022. Bennett could be the piece to tie everything together.
Despite his accomplishments, Bennett will likely face a quarterback battle in offseason camp. Daniels is gone, but blue-chip quarterbacks Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton will all push for playing time.
Georgia has recruited quarterbacks at an insane level over the past 10 years. However, Kirby Smart will always be chastised for choosing the safer Jake Fromm over the more talented Justin Fields four years ago. He could soon be faced with another decision if one of the young players hits.
Bennett’s legacy as a UGA legend is safe after winning a national championship. However, there’s a chance that he could face a similarly tumultuous path on the football field against a stacked quarterback room in 2022 despite all his credentials.
Georgia just won its first championship in 41 years, but don’t think that will keep the Bulldogs complacent. Instead, UGA hopes to join Alabama as the only program to win back-to-back national championship games since the BCS was implemented. USC also won back-to-back AP national championships in 2003 and 2004.
The path will be perhaps even more treacherous in 2022 as the Bulldogs are projected to lose nine starters from their national championship defense. And on offense, starting running backs Zamir White and James Cook have left for the NFL. Competition in the SEC won’t let up anytime soon, either. Alabama returns Heisman winner Bryce Young and Nagurski winner Will Anderson, perhaps the top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Bennett took a huge step between his junior and senior seasons, jumping nine full points in completion percentage, nearly 50 points in passer rating and 2.4 yards per pass attempt. If Georgia is going to repeat, Bennett needs to take another step towards college football’s elite signal-callers.