Stetson Bennett IV has passed the test thus far. His biggest one yet? Alabama on Saturday
Stetson Bennett IV needed some way to stand out from the other quarterbacks while competing in Elite 11 competitions as an undersized high schooler from Blackshear, a small town of just under 3,500 in the southern part of Georgia where an approximately 90-minute drive gets you to Valdosta or Jacksonville, depending on which way you go.
So he decided to don a U.S. Postal Service hat, one he received from the father of one of his friends. And that’s where the nickname “Mailman” came from.
It’s caught on.
After spelling D’Wan Mathis in the season opener, “The Mailman” has delivered against Arkansas, Auburn and Tennessee. We’re about to see if the Georgia quarterback can do the same in his biggest challenge thus far: 3-0 Alabama.
Suffice it to say that this will be the college football event of the year, a showdown between the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country. The Crimson Tide enter the matchup with Mac Jones. All he’s done is record back-to-back 400-yard games as a high-flying offense under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has scored 153 points. DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are the top receiving tandem in the country, while running back Najee Harris had the game of his life against Ole Miss on Saturday.
Want to stand out, Stetson? Beat Alabama.
It might be a stretch to say that if Bennett and his troops can leave Tuscaloosa with a victory that it would be a program-defining win. Georgia won a national title in 1980, after all. But it could go a long way in showing that the balance of power has shifted in the SEC, because for the longest time, everyone has been chasing Alabama. That’s even after last year, when LSU and an other-worldly offense led by Joe Burrow took the crown and left the Tide out of the Playoff for the first time. Bennett will be trying to help the Dawgs do the same in 2020 in support of some good, old-fashioned defense.
And who’d have seen this coming, anyway?
Jamie Newman transferred to Wake Forest but decided to opt out of the season altogether. The staff went with Mathis out of the gate, and after 15+ minutes apparently determined he wasn’t the guy. Southern Cal import JT Daniels’ only crime thus far has been an ACL injury that hindered his ability to compete for the job.
Now, it’s probably too late. Bennett already entrenched himself as QB1, and will be QB1 until he proves otherwise.
To be fair, no one’s going to confuse him with Jones or, for that matter, Kyle Trask or Matt Corral. But he doesn’t need to be. All he needs to be is the kid from small-town Georgia who originally walked on to the Bulldogs football team and eventually became the starter.
That’s not to say he doesn’t have weapons. Kearis Jackson has transitioned from little-used target to one of the leading receivers in the SEC, and could further raise his profile against a struggling Tide defense. Tight end Tre’ McKitty is finally healthy and showed well against Tennessee. Darnell Washington, once he adjusts to the college game, figures to play a major offensive role. Don’t forget Jermaine Burton, who made a pair of catches against the Vols and broke off a 43-yard run on a nice sweep play dialed up by offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Monken, for his part, knows a thing or two about developing college quarterbacks, with his defining work coming at Southern Miss, where he transformed a dreadful Golden Eagles program into a dynamic offensive machine led by Nick Mullens. The Dawgs weren’t nearly in the same boat as the Conference-USA outfit, and with Monken starting to gain his footing, he has a chance to help Bennett get better as the season goes on.
At the end of the day, Bennett has nothing to lose.
If Alabama wins, Georgia will still be in good shape barring a 2nd loss down the stretch with a chance to potentially play the Tide in Atlanta once more. If the Dawgs win, they’ll have established themselves as the team to beat this year in the SEC, potentially sending a message that they aren’t just good enough to win the conference, but a national championship.
And for the kid from Blackshear, Georgia, that would count as a pretty nice delivery.