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Old 02-18-2008, 10:47 AM   #1
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Default Big man, little pond

Big man, little pond
Newberry's Benedict takes unlikely path to NFL
By Eric Edholm
Jan. 25, 2008


Heath Benedict

MOBILE, Ala. ? You look, and then you look again. The helmet with the arrowhead suggests Florida State on first, quick glance, but further investigation indicates it?s a close facsimile. Close in mileage, perhaps, but not recognition.

?Good old Newberry College,? says 6-5, 322-pound OT Heath Benedict, proudly correcting anyone who will listen, of his alma mater.

They?re listening this week. Benedict arrived in Mobile the only Division II player on either team?s roster and has represented himself more than well. You look first at him because of his school and, well, because he?s a dead ringer for Bald Bull on the old Mike Tyson Punch Out game. Maybe a slightly kinder-looking version of Bull, but big and bald-headed nonetheless.

But not too much. Benedict didn?t arrive in town looking to make friends. He already has two ? Tennessee?s Eric Ainge and Brad Cottam ? from Benedict's freshman season at Knoxville and won?t be getting autographs from the other big-school players on the rosters.

?They?re both good guys,? Benedict says of his former UT teammates, ?but we haven?t gotten much chance to hang out this week. I am a Division II guy looking to prove myself amongst all these D-I guys, getting used to the speed and the power, and I think I have done pretty well.?

Indeed. There was a slightly slow start in Monday?s practice, where Benedict let Alabama DE Wallace Gilberry get around him. That was the first matchup with Gilberry. The next three, Benedict stoned him ? in a drill that?s more suited to defensive players having the advantage.

Tuesday?s practice saw another solid day in which Benedict slid and moved well, showing off his versatility.

?I am looking to show I am athletic, too, not just a big bully,? he said.

He continued that work, playing with more of a nasty edge on Wednesday. Twice in a row he dominated Mississippi State LB Titus Brown, a speed rusher, and frustrated 245-pound Georgia Tech DE Darrell Robertson twice in a row and caused him to jump offside the third time. His best play of the day was picking up the rush of perhaps the best linebacker down here, USC?s Keith Rivers, and stopping him in his path. That earned a spirited slap of the hand with 49ers OL coach George Warhop.

The mean streak extended to the Senior Bowl?s biggest scrap of the week. Benedict tangled with 6-6, 294-pound Hampton DE Kendall Langford, wrestling after the whistle and ending the battle with fists thrown by each guy. The coaches, like hockey refs, let them slug it out for a second, knowing it?s not smart to get in between 600-plus pounds of flying beef, before they broke it up. Benedict said it was just two lesser-known guys battling it out, trying to make a name for themselves.

?Just trying to see who?s the biggest, baddest guy on the field,? he said, grinning and winking. ?Hopefully, I am.?

Benedict admits he needed to grow up, which was one of the reasons he left Tennessee, a former Rivals.com All-American, to head to tiny Newberry in Greer, S.C., and its 900-student campus. Football was not big there. Very little was big there, other than himself. He said the environment was probably the best thing for him after a redshirt freshman season at Tennessee where he did more partying than studying or working on football.

?He?s going to have to answer the maturity questions,? said one NFL talent evaluator, ?but he?s answered some about whether he can handle the competition. He comes off a little arrogant, but I think he just might be a confident kid from a small school who knows he can play.?

The fact that he?s here is quite amazing. Not only because of where he played, but because of how little he did as a senior. It was an injury-plagued season in which he tore ankle ligaments in the spring before his senior season and, feeling that he had to perform at a high level as a senior, he came back too early from surgery. It hurt his production, and he was forced to sit the final three games of the season.

But the call came from the Senior Bowl, and he jumped at the chance. He has worked predominantly at right tackle this week, with only a few reps at left tackle for pass protection. He played left tackle as a senior but right tackle ? Newberry had a left-handed quarterback his first three seasons ? before that, starting since his first year there. Right tackle is likely where he?ll cut his NFL teeth. No one is predicting instant stardom for this unlikely player, but he could follow in the footsteps of recent small-school linemen such as Todd Herremans, Brad Meester and Junius Coston into starting spots.

?I?ll play wherever,? he said. ?Right tackle is probably my most comfortable spot, just because I have played there the most, but I think I am quick enough to play inside and pull.

?I think I am going to surprise some people (with his 40-yard-dash time) in Indy.?

From here he?ll head out to Los Angeles to work out with Travelle Gaines, the infamous former LSU trainer, to get ready for the draft before and after the Combine. As for what will make this a successful week, Benedict doesn?t give specifics but says, ?Hopefully in April we?ll find out.?
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Old 02-18-2008, 10:48 AM   #2
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Default Re: Big man, little pond

Other than Langford...who was mentioned in this article...Benedict is my second favorite sleeper pick.
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Old 02-21-2008, 05:27 AM   #3
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Default Re: Big man, little pond

LLT, I just dont see Langford being a sleeper. This guy is gonna be a high to mid 2nd round pick in my opinion. I would to see the Steelers have a chance at him in the 2nd round but I dont think that he will ever last long.
This was a nice write up of the Newberry player. I would love to see the guy do a good job and have a nice career.
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Old 02-22-2008, 01:16 AM   #4
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Default Re: Big man, little pond

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elvis View Post
LLT, I just dont see Langford being a sleeper. This guy is gonna be a high to mid 2nd round pick in my opinion. I would to see the Steelers have a chance at him in the 2nd round but I dont think that he will ever last long.
This was a nice write up of the Newberry player. I would love to see the guy do a good job and have a nice career.
kendall langford will is primarily a 3-4 DE that is where most teams are projecting him at... the fact is only about a handful of teams in the NFL run the 3-4... people are projecting him as a 4th rounder but i see some team reaching on him in the 3rd...

if he's drafted in the second... i'll be very surprised...
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Old 02-23-2008, 01:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: Big man, little pond

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elvis View Post
LLT, I just dont see Langford being a sleeper. This guy is gonna be a high to mid 2nd round pick in my opinion. I would to see the Steelers have a chance at him in the 2nd round but I dont think that he will ever last long.
This was a nice write up of the Newberry player. I would love to see the guy do a good job and have a nice career.
I hope your wrong...if he is there is the 4th...I would be beside myself.
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