Solid And Steady

Arkansas sophomore strong safety Eric Bennett (6-0, 200) was once an offensive force for Tulsa (OK) Booker T. Washington, but now is developing into a play-making defensive one for the Razorbacks - who were ranked No. 9 in the first BCS poll released on Sunday.

When Arkansas sophomore strong safety Eric Bennett picked off a pass during his team's 38-14 bashing of Auburn, he went old school.

Bennett (6-0, 200) used to be a star quarterback for Tulsa (OK) Booker T. Washington so he knew what to do once he got it in his hands.

The result: a 19-yard return where he showed off some of that old elusiveness he used back as a Hornet.

"I was trying to get to the end zone like back in the old days," Bennett said. "That's what every guy in the secondary dreams of when he gets a pick – just taking it to the house for an easy score."

Bennett, who nine tackles last week has him as the Razorbacks' third-leading tackler this season with 37 stops, has been the one constant in an ever-changing backline of the defense.

He is the one guy of in the secondary that has started every game this season for the Razorbacks (6-0, 1-0), who visit Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3) next Saturday at 11:21 a.m. in Oxford.

No. 2 Alabama hammered the Rebels 52-7 on Saturday night.

"Every day we go out there and work hard because you have to compete," Bennett said. "If you want a spot, you have to go out there and earn it.

"You can't take no off days because you might get your spot taken," Bennett added. "You just have to go out there and work hard every day."

Bennett was victimized deep earlier in his career, but has made a point of not having that happen this season.

"I just played everything top down because in the secondary, you come down and make a tackle instead of getting beat deep," Barnett said.

He also seems a better fit at safety than at cornerback, where he started his Arkansas career.

"It's getting better," Bennett said. "I am being able to read my keys faster. I am learning more of my technique wise."

Bennett has spent most of his time at safety starting alongside senior Tramain Thomas, who was supplanted in a couple of games by fellow senior Elton Ford – the back-up for both.

Thomas responded against Auburn with a pair of picks and leads the team with three this season.

"That was big," Bennett said. "He came in and got the finish around for the defense."

Bennett knows that the defense has to stop the run better, but takes solace in the fact that the defense has not given up any touchdowns in five of its last six quarters against two top 20 foes.

"We are making plays at key times and playing fast," Bennett said.

The Razorbacks have faced some of the nation's top backs in Alabama's Trent Richardson, Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray and Christian Michael and Auburn's Michael Dyer in recent weeks.

That won't stop down the stretch if injured back Brandon Bolden of Ole Miss and South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore are healthy enough to play when their teams meet Arkansas.

"It's the SEC so you have always got to be ready for good running backs," Bennett said. "You have to make great tackles and swarm to the ball."

Bennett has lined up with freshmen cornerback Tevin Mitchel and senior Greg Gatson as they have supplanted starters the past two weeks.

"It hasn't really been a big difference because they know their assignments and technique," Bennett said. "It's just like I am playing out there with the people they replaced."

The bye week allowed Arkansas a chance to scrimmage its one defense against its one offense – not something usually done during the week.

"We were able to work on our technique going against the good receivers and that just allows us to get better," Bennett said.

Bennett had plans to take in college games on Saturday with the same scouting eye that he always does.

"I am looking at the quarterback, the timing of the snap, the offensive line and whether you can tell it is a run or a pass," Bennett said. "Just learning as much as you can."


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