INGLEWOOD, California — He is 5-foot-11. At least that’s what the Georgia squad says about Stetson Bennett. Maybe he’s not that big. It also states that he weighs 190, which contributes to his speed and quickness, but is light by soccer standards.
It certainly didn’t matter at the college level.
Bennett ended one of the greatest careers in college history here Monday by leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championships with a 65-7 win over TCU.
Bennett finished 18 of 25 for 304 yards and four touchdowns passing and another 39 yards and two TDs rushing.
He was absolutely phenomenal. If Bennett was, say, 6-3, we’d be talking about him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. But he does not. Therefore, no one knows if he can even make it to the NFL.
This is perhaps due to his size, or perhaps a lingering doubt over the fact that he was originally a walk-on from Georgia who then went on to junior college, only to return and have the program try to recruit him every year. He was constantly questioned, even by his own coaches.
“People have slept on Stetson Bennett for a long time,” said Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “He needs a chance to play at the next level for a long time.”
He might not look like an NFL quarterback, but he didn’t look like an SEC quarterback either, and he ended up dominating this league.
No one is saying Bennett should go first. Although, the guy who could is Bryce Young from Alabama, a diminutive 6-foot, not much taller than Bennett.
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett celebrates a win over TCU in the CFP national championship game Monday, capping a college career with two straight titles. Georgia won 65-7. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Also, no one expects him to become a franchise quarterback. But a backup, a guy who’s developing and contributing, maybe the next Chase Daniel, who’s not much taller than Bennett at 6ft but has been in the league for 14 years (and counting)?
Research from ESPN says that since 2006, only three quarterbacks listed under 6 feet 200 pounds have even been drafted — Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards (third round, 2010), Michigan’s Denard Robinson (fifth round, 2013), and Malcolm Navy’s Perry (seventh round, 2020). There’s also Kent State’s Julian Edelman (seventh round, 2009).
The story goes on
Everyone became a wide receiver in the NFL.
Bennett is fast. He’ll likely hit 4.5-40 at the NFL scouting combine, so maybe he could make the switch too. Or maybe he stays where he is.
His trainers say he’s particularly good at pre-snap reads. “Some of the checks he did, some of the decisions he made [against TCU]just really elitist,” Smart said.
He is accurate. It has a quick release. He usually makes good decisions. He’s 29-3 as a starter, and some of that is because he’s surrounded by incredible talent — tight end Brock Bowers (157 yards) could still be tearing through the streets of LA. Despite this, he made several NFL pitches on Monday.
“The fact that he’s playing for an NFL coordinator in an NFL offense [who coached] NFL quarterbacks should tell people he’s not going to get marbles in his mouth spitting out seven-word calls,” Smart said. “A lot of NFL teams like that.”
Some of his weaknesses are also burned in. He’s always been ‘small’ so his playing style makes up for that – the feeling of avoiding shots, changing arm angles to avoid deviation.
It’s better than being an inaccurate passer who can’t get used to next-level smaller windows and faster defenders.
Bennett, 25, thinks he’s an open book at this point. Some teams won’t like him, others might, but it’s all there to be seen.
“I’ve been at this long enough that I’m sure there’s a game tape,” he laughed.
What he would say to the NFL, he mostly shrugged.
“Hard worker,” said Bennett. “Quite good at football. Clever. But they will see. That will take care of itself.”
There’s no doubt that Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo will play in the NFL. He’s an elite prospect and a potential first-round draft pick. Over the years, he’s faced off against a number of first-round quarterbacks (including Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Will Levis, the top-rated QBs in this draft class). He has also worked against Bennett in practice. He doesn’t see much of a difference.
“I know he gets a lot of doubters, but seeing him day in and day out makes me believe he can be an NFL quarterback,” Ringo said. “Yes indeed.”
It seemed incredible when he saw so little future as a career changer in Georgia that he went to the JUCO ball, or when he almost signed with Louisiana before a last-minute phone call brought him back to Athens. Bennett himself said he didn’t believe it.
But here we are, at the end of Stetson Bennett’s college story, one of the greatest and greatest ever written.
It may not be the end of his football career just yet. Stetson Bennett needs a job, and the NFL may not be such a far-fetched idea anymore.