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If you were to go back and read the comments made by Georgia head coach Kirby Smart just under a month ago, you might’ve thought QB Stetson Bennett was still struggling to be a leader. It’s understood inside the Bulldogs football complex that Bennett will be needed to do more this season. The offensive weapons surrounding Bennett are still growing, just like he is.
But after the Bulldogs wrapped up spring practice with their G-day game this past Saturday, it became very apparent that Kirby Smart had other ideas in mind when he threw down that challenge to Bennett about becoming a stronger leader. Smart made it very clear that Bennett remains the presumed starter.
“Our team knows Stetson is our quarterback, know what I mean? Stetson has done a tremendous job. Stetson has been an incredible leader, done what we’ve asked. And you know what? The other two (QBs) have gotten a whole lot better, and I think if you asked them, they’re really comfortable back there in the pulpit throwing the ball. I saw it today with both of them. They both have really good arm talent and done a great job. Stetson knows where he stands on our team.”
If you ask Bennett about the role, he will tell you that he’s just one piece to the whole puzzle.
“I’m going to be better than last year, but this isn’t gonna be the Stetson Bennett show,” Bennett added. “It’s going to be the University of Georgia football team.”
This offense will look different in 2022, especially with the amount of talent that was lost after last season. Yes, Stetson will need to continue working on some areas of his game, but he will also rely on players like Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey and some of the younger receivers. But even if one of his guys goes off one game, the others will be needed to step up in the next. It’s a collection of talent, according to Bennett, all working towards one goal.
“They obviously want to make catches, and they are all good enough to break the game open,” Bennett said. “But they care about winning. If that means one game A.D. catches 10 balls for 160 yards and tight ends don’t catch anything or vice versa, then so be it. All we really care about is winning.”
One thing you don’t have to worry about is Bennett making it all about himself. He’s never been that type of guy, and heading into the season as the bona fide starting quarterback won’t change that. He has earned the trust of his teammates upfront, the ones that are keeping him off the ground. The offensive line returns three guys — Warren Ericson, Sedrick Van Plan and Warren McClendon — who will need to protect and open up running lanes while Broderick Jones takes most snaps at left tackle.
But as we exit the spring and get into the summer workouts, Bennett understands he doesn’t have to do everything by himself. The collection of talent around him will make things easier this season. Earning the trust of the team last season and the way he did it has gone a long way this spring. The mental battle of stepping into the spotlight is gone. Everyone knows who he is and what he’s capable of. So now he has to grow his game and rely on the guys around him to elevate his game and alleviate some of the pressure.
“Do I think I need to be better than last year? Yeah. Do I think I’m going to need to go out there and win every single game? No. We’re still the University of Georgia, we’re still going to have great players, great O-Line, great backs, great backers, a great D-Line and great DBs.”
It’s starting to sound like Stetson Bennett has taken the steps needed to bolster his leadership, both on and off the field. Maybe those words from Kirby Smart just over a month ago poured a little gasoline on the fire that was already burning inside of Bennett.
Time will tell, but he seems to be on the right track for 2022.