Stetson Bennett dropped back in the pocket, scanned the opposing secondary and picked out his target.
Only, right as he cocked his arm back to throw, the pocket partially collapsed. Bennett danced around for a half-second, stepped up in a faltering pocket and flicked his wrist, zipping a 52-yard dart to Matt Landers. Bennett said he tries to emulate Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his play, and that throw looked eerily Rodgers-esque.
Welcome to Georgia’s backup quarterback battle.
Competitor No. 1: Bennett, the former walk-on.
Bennett was arguably the best quarterback on either team Saturday, given Jake Fromm’s off day, and he certainly made a strong case that he’s deserving of the coveted No. 2 spot behind Fromm.
“I missed some balls,” said Bennett. “All in all, it was a pretty good day. I’m ready to go watch the film later on today and see how it went. … Coming out here, I got some little jitters, but I just try to rep it, and know my assignment each play, so when I do get out there, I’ll feel comfortable doing it.”
Bennett finished as the scrimmage’s leading passer, going 12-of-23 for 210 yards and a touchdown. He took snaps for both the red and black teams. Bennett’s touchdown was a fitted pass between the safeties to Jeremiah Holloman, who shed a tackle and dashed into the end zone.
But it wasn’t all Bennett’s show.
Competitor No. 2: D’Wan Mathis, the freshman.
Mathis made his first appearance in the red and black (or white, technically, since the quarterbacks wore white non-contact jerseys) during Saturday’s spring game. The freshman showed glimpses of his ability throughout, but also showed reminders that he’s still as green as the soaked Sanford Stadium grass.
Mathis threw for 113 yards on 15-of-28 passing. He didn’t throw for a touchdown, but still technically recorded a score through the air.
That score came on a double-reverse that ended up in Landers’ hands. Landers sprinted right and uncorked a cross-field throw to the streaking Mathis, who caught the throw basket-style and outran the safety to the end zone.
“I was ready for (the trick play),” said Landers, who played some quarterback in high school. “Just to see the outcome of it, because, you know, a lot of trick plays don’t work. My first trick play ever and we accomplished it.”
Mathis’ upside is pretty clear. He’s still quite young and inexperienced, but showed flashes of just what he brings to the table. He throws the ball with a nice, soft touch, and can scramble when things break down. He demonstrated his scrambling ability more than once during the scrimmage.
Of course, with any green quarterback, he still has a lot to learn.
Mathis forced a throw into triple coverage in the first half, and threw an ugly interception on his second drive of the game. And he had a few issues reading the defense, such as the time a defensive end came completely free on one of his second-half drop backs.
It’s a lot for Kirby Smart to take in, between now and the Bulldogs’ season-opener at Vanderbilt. Both quarterbacks showed high ceilings, and both showed signs that they still, perhaps, have a bit of fine-tuning left.
“They did a nice job managing the game,” Smart said. “D’Wan had a couple of sloppy snaps, I think he dropped a snap there, I thought Stetson did a good job. Stetson’s played in that game before. So, both of those guys did a good job of managing a lot of throwing situations.
“I was pleased with the way Stetson and D’Wan managed the game from the field. And that’s important.”