With seniors Kodi Burns and Terrell Zachery as well as record-setting junior Darvin Adams gone off the 2010 BCS National Champions, the chance to play early is there at wide receiver for the Tigers. There is no question that juniors Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen are going to see plenty of action on the field this fall, but in Gus Malzahn's system that leaves plenty of opportunities for other receivers to catch the football. Benton said he knows his preseason is a big one for him to show what he can do.
"Now is the time to put it together, to show Malzahn that I'm feeling real comfortable and that I'll be an impact player for this upcoming season," Benton said. "I just have to work hard at practice every day and do what the coaches have coached us to do. Whatever Malzahn wants you to do, you should do it. He's our O.C. (offensive coordinator) he knows what to do and when."
Benton goes after a pass during Saturday's practice.
That has been one of the problems for a receiver labeled as one of the best in the country coming out of Bastrop High in Louisiana. Forced to attend prep school and then sit out an extra year while trying to be academically eligible, Benton's career began at Auburn in 2009 and he's still looking for that breakout season. In two seasons he has caught only seven passes for 103 yards and is still looking for his first touchdown. While he has battled some injuries he admits that's not what has kept him off the field for the most part.
It was just based upon my performance, what I did, and me not remembering things, the plays I had to learn," Benton said. "It was on me for not learning. I just sat behind Darvin. He knew everything. I paid attention to what he did and that made me better.
"I knew I wasn't running it full speed," he added of his routes. "Coach Malzahn wants you to run full speed every play. There's always timing involved with what he does… It's mental. When you get tired, you're not concentrating and it can hurt you."
Realizing that he had to change his ways, Benton has come back this fall with a new attitude and it has shown up through the first four days on the field. Malzahn said he's been really pleased with how the big receiver has done so far.
"He's got a great opportunity right now," Malzahn said. "We need him to rise up. So far in camp he's off to a very good start. Like we've told him, he needs to be consistent. So far so good, but he needs to keep getting better."
With everything on his shoulders to earn some playing time, Benton is currently working behind Blake at the ‘9' position and hoping to make his mark. Because Blake is very valuable to the offense he may move around to different spots, opening up playing time across the board. Knowing the ball is in his court, Benton said he doesn't feel the heat, he just wants to do his thing and show everyone he was worth the wait.
"There's a lot of pressure," Benton said. "It's not really pressure, just motivation for me to work hard every day knowing a position is open."