On the Beat: Georgia’s lucky No. 13 ‘a hard guy not to like,’ and look ahead to Auburn

Mike Griffith,

DawgNation Staff

On the Beat: Georgia’s lucky No. 13 ‘a hard guy not to like,’ and look ahead to Auburn

ATHENS — Georgia football has the best walk-on story in recent college football history, and as Kirby Smart would say, some are “missing the window.”

The only thing fifth-year senior and former walk-on and junior college quarterback Stetson Bennett is missing, it seems, is height.

RELATED: Kirby Smart’s plan for injured JT Daniels this week

Bennett, generously listed at 5-foot-11, could be in line for his third start of the season at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday when the No. 2-ranked Bulldogs travel to play No. 18 Auburn on The Plains at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The only numbers that matter to Georgia football are those on the scoreboard, however, as Smart has his Bulldogs’ laster-focused. But for those who want to take a deeper dive into Bennett, consider his pass efficiency rating of 214.78 would rank second in the NCAA if he had enough attempts to qualify.

Bennett saved the Bulldogs at the start of last season after a slow start at Arkansas and delivered SEC wins over Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky before injuring his shoulder with Georgia up 14-0 over Florida in the first quarter.

JT Daniels, once a prolific 5-star prospect and USC freshman starting quarterback, took over the final five games of last season and put up jaw-dropping statistics that led man to render Bennett expendable after the 2020 season.

After all, redshirt freshman Carson Beck and incoming 5-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff seemed like sure things to handle backup duties. And, both are coming along, but Bennett’s game experience and moxie have made him the right choice for the moment.

Bennett admitted Saturday that he considered leaving the Bulldogs, but only because he wanted a chance to compete for the No. 2 quarterback duties, Smart revealed.

Beck had won the No. 2 job coming out of spring, but somewhere between there and the Bulldogs’ second game of the season, Bennett assumed the trusted role of “next man up” when Daniels couldn’t go against the Blazers.

Many were upset when DawgNation broke the online version of the story that Bennett was the definitive starter, perhaps holding it against Bennett that Smart didn’t clear Daniels earlier in the 2020 season.

In fact, some of the home fans booed Bennett’s introduction on the Jumbotron that day against the Blazers.

But even his most ardent of Bennett’s critics were speechless by halftime of the 56-7 win.

Bennett, who struggled at times with downfield throws in 2020, was sensational in unleashing three deep balls on pass plays of more than 60 yards. The trajectory on Bennett’s deep passes had changed, as he apparently took a page out of Daniels’ book on striking deep.

Bennett completed his first seven passes against UAB en route to a 10-of-12 passing performance that netted 288 yards and a program-record tying 5 touchdown passes.

“Stetson Bennett is a really good quarterback,” Smart said. “I keep saying that, and people don’t believe us. But he’s a really good quarterback.”

Team captain Jamaree Salyer put the magic of Bennett’s leadership into perspective.

“It’s just his story, Stet has gone through just about everything a guy could go through when it comes to college,” Salyer said. “He’s been here for five years, I think he went to junior college for a year after he left, and then he came back. Won the starting job, lost the starting job. Been on the scout team, won big games, Stet has lived the life of a college athlete to the fullest.

“So when it comes to his story, he’s got the ‘it’ factor, and he’s always going to show up when his number is called, and he’s a good person. Easy to to laugh with, always smiling, Stet is a hard person not to like.”