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The Mailman Returneth.

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2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

There have been a lot of comings and goings on the Georgia football roster barely a week into college football’s offseason. Most of them have been met with a hearty smile (Jamaree Salyer declaring it’s time to go buy his mother a house) or a knowing nod (Ameer Speed transferring to Michigan State for a chance at every down playing time). But the latest one seems to have just infuriated a certain thin thread of Bulldog fans.

Let’s not even address the genuine weirdness of being upset that the quarterback who was the offensive MVP of the national championship game is coming back. On its face that one is pretty hard to explain to disinterested observers. One could also be forgiven for, like a large swath of Bulldog Nation, giving literally not one flying flip about the future for at least another couple of weeks while they savor a title four decades in the making.

But this is, nominally at least, a sports website. So let’s instead focus on what this means for the 2022 Bulldogs. First, it means that Georgia has its starting quarterback back. And he’s actually a pretty good one. Stetson Bennett does have some concrete physical limitations that cannot be overcome. He’s not getting any taller. He’s not likely to add a great deal more velocity on his throws at this stage. He doesn’t “have all the throws” to use a scouting term. But he did complete 64.5% of his passes for 2862 yards in 2021. The guy’s no stiff. It’s no stretch to say that every team in the SEC save Alabama (Bryce Young) will be returning a quarterback with a lower floor than Georgia in 2022. Stetson Bennett continues to be an unbelievable insurance policy for the UGA offense.

Second, bear in mind that Bennett still hasn’t had a spring practice or fall camp in Athens during which he actually took the majority of first team reps. This is I think the most mind-boggling aspect of the 2021 season vis-a-vis QB play. Last spring Stetson Bennett was taking 5% or so of the reps in team situations and was still sharp enough to be one of the nation’s most reliable passers when the season started. Of the 85 total pass attempts during the G Day Game Bennett had 4 of them (Carson Beck threw 31, Brock Vandagriff 9). With a full spring and fall to work with his receiving corps he should be even better.

Third, Todd Monken should be in a better position to play to Bennett’s strengths than he was in 2021. Especially early this offense was designed around JT Daniels’ strengths: pocket passing, sparing play action, and absolutely no rollouts or designed QB runs. Monken deserves an incredible amount of credit for realizing what he could do with Bennett and getting it installed on the fly during the course of a season. Oh, and producing the #9 ranked scoring offense in the country (38.9 ppg) in the process.

But there’s no doubt Monken was not doing all that he intended to do offensively, that the Mailman was not capable of doing all the things he wanted to do offensively, and that a lot of what was being done was designed quite simply to score enough points to turn things over to the Red and Black’s elite defense. Assuming Todd Monken isn’t snatched up in the next month or so by an NFL team and returns to Athens, it will be downright intriguing to see what he does with a full offseason to scheme for Bennett’s strengths rather than around his weaknesses.

Fourth, it’s relatively unlikely that this affects the composition of the QB room any more than it already has. It always seemed that if Bennett was back JT Daniels was likely leaving. You can’t blame the guy. His objective since he was ten years old has been to play in the NFL, and holding a clipboard in Athens wasn’t the best way to get there. He’s handled this season like a pro, hasn’t pouted or been a distraction, and in all respects earned my respect. I wish him the absolute best wherever he lands, as long as it’s not Florida. Because everyone has to have some standards.

Carson Beck was, at least according to some well-placed sources, in line to start when Daniels went down with that fateful oblique injury. Then he struggled a bit in practice and the staff decided that the Prince of Pierce was a lower risk proposition until Daniels could get healthy. The rest, as they say, is history. Beck would have been a transfer candidate regardless of which quarterback had returned, and was likely only going to be back in a scenario in which Daniels decamped to the NFL and Bennett hung up his spurs, leaving the top spot up for grabs.

I also wouldn’t expect either Brock Vandagriff or incoming freshman Gunner Stockton to leave. Vandagriff was always going to sit this season and needed some seasoning before he was going to be ready for the SEC. There’s not an SEC program to which he would transfer and be in a markedly better situation. Stockton likewise signed on knowing that there was a good chance some combination of Daniels, Bennett, and Vandagriff would be in Athens his freshman season. Nothing has really changed for him.

And in some ways another year of deliveries by the Mailman might ease the UGA offense’s transition. I watch a lot of high school football in Georgia. I saw Stetson Bennett, Brock Vandagriff, and Gunner Stockton more than once during their respective prep careers. I’m confident that Stockton is the best of the lot. During his senior season I compared him to Stetson Bennett, only bigger, faster, and with a better arm. But their games are similar. In fact every scholarship QB on the Bulldog roster right now with the exception of Beck is a genuine threat to run the ball at least occasionally. An offense that prioritizes Stetson Bennett’s strengths looks a lot more like one that plays to Vandagriff and Stockton’s strengths than one designed around JT Daniels tossing 40 yard fly routes.

Also, and this seems unlikely but hear me out, there’s no guarantee that Georgia is out of the market for transfer quarterbacks who could make an immediate impact. Kirby Smart is notoriously open about every starting position on his team being up for grabs every day, and if he has a chance to add a Jaxson Dart or Caleb Williams to the roster I expect he’d do it. There’s nothing that prevents Smart and Monken from quietly admitting to transfer recruits that Bennett has some limitations and they’d like to add a player with more upside.

For me personally it would be a hard sell. I’d believe the UGA staff was going to unseat the guy who started most of a national title run about like I’d believe that an Auburn grad really read War and Peace. But coming from the guys actually making the decision, it’s a sales pitch that might work. And, fairly or unfairly, I have to believe that Bennett is a less threatening returning starter than Daniels would have been. I’m absolutely okay with a blue chip quarterback underestimating the Mailman all the way to Athens if it makes the QB room better.

There are no guarantees in life or college football. That’s why I’m delighted that Georgia is somehow in a much better quarterback situation than I thought they would be in at this point when 2021 started. I assumed that JT Daniels would start, and either Georgia would put it all together finally or they wouldn’t. And either way he’d be off to the NFL, leaving Beck, Vandagriff, and Stockton to battle it out.

Georgia now has those guys plus the reigning MVP of the Orange Bowl and CFP National Championship Game returning. If you can’t view that as a positive then we really need to have a deeper discussion about reality versus perfection. In a perfect world puppies never die, parking meters never expire, and you have an endless, perfectly spaced line of elite five star quarterbacks ready to lay it on the line for your college football program.

That’s not reality. The reality is that Georgia now has a solid veteran quarterback, at least two promising underclassmen, and proof of concept to lure more talented players at the position. I just can’t be mad that, to paraphrase David Mamet, the Mailman decided to ring twice. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!