INGLEWOOD, California — He’s 5-foot-11. At least that’s what the Georgia roster says of Stetson Bennett. So maybe he isn’t even that tall. It also says he weighs 190, which helps with his speed and quickness, but is light by football standards.
It certainly didn’t matter at the college level.
Bennett finished off one of the greatest careers in college history here Monday by leading the Bulldogs to consecutive national championships with a 65-7 beatdown of 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 stood, say, 6-3, we’d be talking about him as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. He doesn’t though. As such, no one knows if he can even make the NFL.
This is perhaps because of his height or perhaps as lingering doubt from the fact he was originally a Georgia walk-on, who then left for junior college, only to return and have the program try to recruit over him every year. He was perpetually doubted, even by his own coaches.
“People slept on Stetson Bennett for a long time,” Coach Kirby Smart said. “He needs an opportunity to play for a long time at the next level.”
He may not quite look the part of a NFL quarterback, but he didn’t look the part of an SEC quarterback either and he wound up dominating that league.
No one is claiming Bennett should go first overall. Although, the guy who might is Alabama’s Bryce Young, a slight 6-footer, not much bigger than Bennett.
Also, no one is expecting him to become a franchise quarterback. A backup though, a guy who develops and contributes, maybe the next Chase Daniel, who at 6-foot isn’t much bigger than Bennett but has been in the league for 14 years (and counting)?
ESPN research says since 2006, just three quarterbacks listed under six-foot and 200 pounds have even been drafted — Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards (third round, 2010), Michigan’s Denard Robinson (fifth round, 2013) and Navy’s Malcolm Perry (seventh round, 2020). There is also Kent State’s Julian Edelman (seventh round, 2009).
Each became a wide receiver in the NFL.
Bennett is fast. He’ll likely clock a 4.5 40 at the NFL combine, so maybe he could transition as well. Or maybe he stays at his position.
His coaches say he’s particularly strong in pre-snap reads. “Some of the checks he made, some of the decisions he made. [against TCU]just really elite,” Smart said.
He is accurate. He has a quick release. He makes mostly good decisions. He’s 29-3 as a starter, and some of that is because he’s surrounded by outrageous talent — tight end Brock Bowers (157 yards) might still be barreling through the streets of LA. Still, he made a number of NFL throws on Monday.
“The fact he plays in an NFL offense for a NFL coordinator. [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 baked in. He’s always been “small” so the way he plays compensates for that — the sense to avoid hits, altering arm angles to avoid deflections.
That’s better than being an inaccurate passer who can’t adjust to the smaller windows and faster defensive backs of the next level.
Bennett figures he’s an open book at this point. Some teams aren’t going to like him, some might, but it’s all there to be seen.
“I’ve been around long enough I’m sure there’s some game tape,” he laughed.
As for what he’d tell the NFL, he mostly shrugged.
“Hard worker,” Bennett said. “Pretty good at football. Smart. But they’ll see that. That will take care of itself.”
There isn’t any doubt that Georgia cornerback Kelee Ringo will play in the NFL. He’s an elite prospect and potential first-round pick. Through the years, he’s gone against a slew of first-round quarterbacks (including Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Will Levis, the top-rated QBs of this draft class). He’s also worked against Bennett in practice. He doesn’t see much difference.
“I know he gets a lot of doubters but seeing him day to day, I believe he can be a NFL quarterback,” Ringo said. “Yes, sir.”
It seemed implausible when, as a walk-on, he saw so little future at Georgia he left for JUCO ball, or when he nearly signed with Louisiana before a last-minute call brought him back to Athens. Bennett himself said he wouldn’t have believed it.
Yet here we are, at the end of Stetson Bennett’s college story, one of greatest and grandest ever written.
It just might not be the end of his football career. Stetson Bennett needs a job, and the NFL may not be such a far-fetched idea any longer.