In the first quarter of Georgia’s ninth game of the season, they faced then-No. 1 Tennessee Bulldogs senior quarterback Stetson Bennett showed wrinkles in his game that could cause problems for the Buckeyes in his bowl of the Peach on Saturday.
In the 3rd and 10th at the Volunteers’ 13-yard line, a dial-up blitz allowed a free Tennessee rusher to pass down the left side of Georgia’s offensive line and wash Bennett out of his pocket.
Rolling to the right, Bennett high-stepped over the would-be tackler and made a stutter-step in the open field before dove headlong into the pylon, giving Georgia the lead it couldn’t let go.
An added element to the quarterback’s run is not something the Buckeyes defense is unaccustomed to facing, but the double-threat quarterback, Toledo sophomore Dequan Finn (4 compared to Michael Vick). Linebacker Steele Chambers) and Michigan sophomore JJ McCarthy line up across from each other. .
Chambers said defending a quarterback’s run is a learning experience throughout the season.
“We tested it earlier this year,” says Chambers. “Since then you live and you learn. Just adjust based on that and I think we’re definitely getting better as the season goes on. And I think this is the ultimate test with Stetson this week.” think.”
Bennett’s rushing attempts dropped from 4.6 per game last season to 3.9 in 2022, averaging just 14.2 yards per game this year compared to a career-high 18.5 yards per game in 2021. Is not …
Don’t let the drop in production fool you. Bennett has made some big moves this season.
Bennett scored a 64-yard touchdown against Auburn on October 8, 1976, the longest run by a Bulldog quarterback since 1976. His seven rushing touchdowns this season are the most by a signal his caller in Georgia since Aaron Murray’s seven scoring in 2014.
Chambers said Bennett can move in an open field in a way that throws defenders out who try to tackle him.
“He’s got this weird little dead leg that he does. It’s annoying whenever he’s in open space,” Chambers said. It would take 11 players to stop him completely and stop the whole attack.”
The Blackshear, Georgia native has 184 rushing yards in 47 tries in 2022. His 14.15 rushing yards per game is his 10th highest figure among quarterbacks in his conference in the Southeastern. He’s scoring first downs in his 34% of carries this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
His value on the ground, however, lies in his ability to extend plays and pick up chunk yards on broken plays. Bennett has 64 yards in 10 scrambles this season, according to Pro Football Focus.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bennett is one of the best players in the SEC when faced with pressure this season.
There are multiple levels to planning how to stop a mobile quarterback, starting with the defensive line.
Fourth-year defensive end Zach Harrison said the defensive line had to “rush together,” which defensive line coach Larry Johnson said meant “caging” the pockets. rice field.
“There is an end and the inside fades away,” Johnson said. “We have a posse to make sure the quarterback stays in the pocket, so don’t let him scramble.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said it’s a “balance” between chasing sacks and keeping a mobile quarterback in his pocket.
“You don’t want to hold back Rushman. You want those guys to be able to go,” Knowles said. You have to know what he likes to make and where he’s going to go, basically manipulating it.”
The next stage in containing the mobile quarterback is at the linebacker level, where Chambers said that if Bennett escapes the pocket, he will have to rely on his consciousness to make a play.
“Sometimes when you’re riding men, you get crazy about drops, like zone drops and stuff like that,” said Chambers. “But I mean, you have to always keep it in the back of your mind that he can go out and make big plays with his feet.”
Bennett finished as a Heisman Trophy finalist this season after having his best year since taking on the starting role in 2020. He threw for his 3,425 yards with 68.1% completions and his 20 touchdowns. These are all career highs.
Head coaches Ryan Day and Kirby Smart praised Bennett for being a “winner” and having “persistence and resilience” respectively.
Johnson said it was “most important” to keep Bennett in his pocket and prevent him from beating the No. 4 Buckeyes with his feet.
“Keep him in your pocket and let him throw a lot,” Johnson said. “If you’re going to get the big guys, point the ends in their face so the ends can’t rush behind the quarterback because of the seams in the pass.”