Week 10 of the 2022 college football season had a marquee matchup when the then number 1 Tennessee Vols played the number 3 Georgia Bulldogs. Both teams looked like the favorites to be playing in the national championship game, but this was not the only thing that they had in common.
Georgia and Tennessee had star quarterbacks: Tennessee had Hendon Hooker, and Georgia had former Jones College Bobcat Stetson Bennett. The two quarterbacks dueled for four quarters, trading touchdown for touchdown. When the dust settled, Bennett came out the victor, with his Bulldogs winning 13-27. The Bulldogs would go on to win their second consecutive national championship later that year, but we aren’t focusing solely on the two teams’ performance. The question posed is, which of the two SEC East powerhouses lost the most at the quarterback position in the offseason?
Hendon Hooker transferred to Tennessee in the fall of 2021. That year, according to ESPN, he posted an amazing passer rating of 182.0 (with the standard being 100). His total yardage in the air was 2,945, with a touchdown to interception ratio of 31/3. His completion percentage was 68.2. In short, he had an astounding season. The 2022-23 season saw a better Hendon Hooker, but, if you look at his stats, he wasn’t as statistically good in his final season at rocky top. The only stat he improved on was his completion percentage, finishing the year with a 69.6.
How did Hooker get better if statistically he regressed? Hooker got better because of the system he was in. Tennessee was ranked as the number one offense last year. They had a sort of run and gun style offense with a lot of long passes and big plays. With defenses getting better and better, having only two interceptions in a season is a massive feat. Having only two interceptions while averaging 9.5 yards per pass is a colossal feat. It just so happens that Hooker achieved both of those feats last year. To put it into perspective, the Heisman winner Caleb Williams had five interceptions. Hooker had a great career in Tennessee.
Stetson Bennett, the pride and joy of Jones, was a walk-on who became a two-time national champ. Stetson comes in second in the stats battle against Hooker. He only had a 161.2 passer rating. He had seven interceptions to 27 touchdowns. That means his touchdown to interception differential was only 20, while Hooker’s was 25 in the positive.
After viewing this data, the clear and obvious answer to who lost more was Tennessee, right? Well, not so fast. Earlier in the column we stated that we wouldn’t bring up Hooker and Bennett’s teams’ performance and just talk about their individual stats. Football is a quarterback’s game. This means that if you are a good quarterback, your team will also be good. Hooker falls into this category. However, if you are a quarterback who is a winner, your team will be a winner. Stetson Bennett is a winner. He won two national championships. He was 29-3 as a starter at Georgia. He became a legend because of his grit and determination. But that is not the only reason he became a legend; he achieved that status because he is a winner. And because of that one fact, there is no debate about who lost more this summer at the quarterback position. Tennessee lost a good quarterback, but Georgia lost a winner.
by Ollie Hammonds