Stetson Bennett Returns With A Chance To Make History, Again

Stetson Bennett (13) of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after the Georgia Bulldogs defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 in the 2022 CFP National Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If you read any 2022 College Football preview this coming month and the top story isn’t Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett IV you’ve wasted your time and money. 

Bennett’s storyline follows a made-for-college football script. But think about this …

This season features a returning national championship-winning quarterback. Upperclassmen who win a title and then return for another season are fairly uncommon, and Bennett could enter select company as a two-time winner. 

2022 College Football preview featuring Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Stetson Bennett (13) of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Yet there’s very little hype for the ‘next SEC QB seeking back-to-back championships’ storylines in 2022 College Football previews.

How wild is that fact? Especially given today’s media coverage and how much we crave football over anything else, even more so in the south.

Tim Tebow, A.J. McCarron, Tommie Frazier … the list is small. Bennett, who turns 25 in October, can also accomplish this feat. 

How is one of the most remarkable success stories across college football considered an afterthought by the vast majority of us who follow the sport?

Like you, I’ve done this too. I was scanning the list of college quarterbacks who attended the Manning Passing Academy last week.

Eyes immediately find Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, Mississippi State’s Will Rogers, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker … the list continues.

2022 College Football preview featuring Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Stetson Bennett (13) of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts with fans during the parade honoring the Georgia Bulldogs national championship victory on January 15, 2022, in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Bennett also participated, but I didn’t just gloss over his name as I would have a year ago.

Many of the top college quarterbacks can be described as strong-armed, dynamic, future-Mel-Kiper crushes, here’s Bennett that might be best described as a… winner? 

There’s a stigma that follows him, and it’s an obvious fact to point out. It starts with the Bulldogs’ defense being as elite of a defensive group as we’ve seen in the sport, filled with stars on Saturday who now play on Sundays.

2022 College Football preview featuring Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Stetson Bennett (13) of the the Georgia Bulldogs against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 10, 2022, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Added to that is J.T. Daniels began the 2021 season as the starter but missed four straight games due to injury. Still, media and fans remained convinced the argument could be made for a move to Daniels following the loss in the SEC Championship game where Bennett struggled under pressure against the Alabama defense. 

Tweets from the SEC Championship loss on December 4, 2021: 

“You are not winning a natty with Stetson Bennett as your starting quarterback.” – @prophetoffett2

“If we’re being honest with ourselves, Stetson Bennett was never the guy who could dig a team out of a hole. Bama deserves all the credit. But his play this year had hidden us from the truth that he was never the QB who could beat the most elite teams in the country.” – @YousefBaig 

“I will sell my soul for Stetson Bennett to never play another down for UGA.” – @Chris3Tucker

Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Alabama Crimson Tide Defensive Linemen Phidarian Mathis (48) sacks Georgia Bulldogs Quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) during the SEC Championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on December 04, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

We know what happened two games later against the same Crimson Tide defense. The walk-on won the damn game, capping off a College Football Playoff performance where he completed 66% of his passes for 537 yards, 5 touchdowns, and no interceptions. 

Here’s another fact: He was the quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs who helped the program overcome the stigma of 1980. He remains the starting quarterback as we prepare to kick off the 2022 season in two months. 

He was a kid from southern Georgia who used to dream about playing at Sanford Stadium, so he turned down another scholarship offer, instead opting to walk on as a freshman at UGA.

Then Justin Fields arrived on campus and joined a depth chart with Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason. Bennett left for Jones County Junior College but would return on a scholarship offer only to find his name at the bottom of a depth chart that included Daniels, Jamie Newman, and D’Wan Mathis — even Carson Beck was ahead of him on the depth chart last offseason.

So much has changed with the title run, but the quick bypass of giving him any credit whatsoever really hasn’t flipped whatsoever. 

Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett
Georgia Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett (13) celebrates and holds the national championship trophy after the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship, on January 10, 2022, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It goes without saying he’s been extremely fortunate, but calling it pure luck is an oversight given the circumstances of today’s game.

In the world of Power 5 conference football — and a landscape filled with money, 5-star prospects and the deep transfer portal — here’s a 6th-year senior playing for a program expected to win the SEC East who has improved his game in each of the last two seasons. He’s back with an opportunity to make even more history. 

He’s not an NFL guy, which I believe plays another factor in how the mainstream football world views him. That leads me to next week’s column. 

Until then, remember the first storyline of any 2022 College Football preview. 

Georgia’s season is about reloading from the talent now playing in the NFL and attempting to run back the ultimate success the program reached last season. 

It can also be about statues and street signs, not trophies.

Head coach Kirby Smart will have both in Athens for delivering the first football championship to UGA in 40 years. With back-to-back title runs, Bennett will earn them too. 

Either way, he’s a prime example of what makes college football great. 

Until next week, enjoy OutKick 360 and And crank up the Thursday Night Mowing League.

Written by Jonathan Hutton

Jonathan Hutton is the host of OutKick 360 which breaks down all the latest sports headlines every day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET. Hutton joined OutKick in January of 2021 after nine years as co-host of Midday 180 on 104.5 The Zone, the second highest rated local sports show in the United States.

He is well recognized in the Tennessee sports community and spent 16 years on the Tennessee Titans Radio Network, serving as the Gameday Host, sideline reporter, among other roles.

Hutton also does television play-by-play for the TSSAA state football and basketball championships on the NFHS Network as well as a freelance sports anchor for WTVF-TV NewsChannel in Nashville.

Hutton is a Tennessee native.

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