What Stetson Bennett’s decision to return to Georgia after a national title win means for the Bulldogs in 2022


Georgia starting quarterback Stetson Bennett IV will return to the Bulldogs for his final year of eligibility, the senior announced Wednesday. Bennet posted a story on his Instagram account with a Georgia graphic that read “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. Lifelong Georgia fan and former extra, Bennett threw for 2,862 yards and 29 touchdowns on 10.0 yards per attempt in 2021 after getting the starting job midway through the season.

The decision was made public shortly after Week 1 starter JT Daniels entered the transfer portal after a two-year stint with the program. Daniels, a former five-star recruit, transferred to UGA in 2020 after starting a season at USC. However, Daniels has 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 an NCAA blanket ruling 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.

Veteran Leadership

Georgia is losing key production on both sides of the ball, but getting its starting quarterback back for another year brings much-needed stability as the Bulldogs head into a transition year. Despite all the talk about being a game manager, Bennett had a terrific regular season to build the UGA Championship race.

Bennett completed more than 64% of his passes in 2021 and averaged 10.0 yards per pass attempt, which topped only Ohio State’s CJ Stroud among Power Five quarterbacks. Stroud benefited from potentially three wide receivers in the first round, while Bennett did so without top receiver George Pickens for most of the season. He was particularly deadly off the game, averaging 12.8 yards per pass attempt.

Top receivers Pickens and Jermaine Burton are gone, but world tight end Brock Bowers is set to be an All-American in 2022. Bennett could be the piece that ties it all together.

hard road

Despite his accomplishments, Bennett will likely face a quarterback battle in offseason camp. Daniels is gone, but top-notch quarterbacks Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton will all press for 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 youngsters strikes.

Bennett’s legacy as a UGA legend is secure after winning a national championship. However, there’s a chance he could face an equally tumultuous path on the football field against a stacked quarterback room in 2022 despite all his credentials.

Repeat chances

Georgia just won its first championship in 41 years, but don’t think that will make the Bulldogs complacent. Instead, UGA hopes to join Alabama as the only program to win back-to-back national championship games since implementing BCS. USC also won back-to-back AP National Championships in 2003 and 2004.

The path may be even more dangerous in 2022, as the Bulldogs are expected to lose nine starters in their national championship defense. And on offense, starting running backs Zamir White and James Cook left for the NFL. The competition within the SEC isn’t going to stop any time soon, either. Alabama returns Heisman winner Bryce Young and Nagurski winner Will Anderson, possibly the top two picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Bennett took a big leap 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 to repeat, Bennett needs to take a step closer to being college football’s elite flaggers.

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