Will Benton Finally Play Up to His Potential?

Auburn junior wide receiver DeAngelo Benton is hoping to have a big season in 2011.

Auburn, Ala.—With leading receiver Darvin Adams gone from last year's BCS National Champions as well as Terrell Zachery and Kodi Burns, the Auburn Tigers will be looking for production on the outside for quarterback Barrett Trotter. While Emory Blake and Philip Lutzenkirchen are expected to increase their receiving roles in 2011, the Tigers will need more than that with teams gearing up to stop the running game.

A player who has a chance to shine this fall has waited for his turn patiently while working to improve his play on the field. Junior DeAngelo Benton is the old man for Auburn's team in terms of age, but he's just now coming into his own as a wide receiver and he said he can't wait to take the next step in a game.

"I have been waiting on this since camp started," Benton said. "Now it's finally here. I'm just waiting for that day.

"I'm a whole lot more prepared," he added. "I have been working since my freshman year trying to play on this level. Finally my opportunity has come. It's time for me to show what I can do on Saturday."

Catching just one pass for 15 yards in 2010 while playing in nine games, Benton has battled injuries his first two seasons on the Plains and it has kept him down. Admitting he hasn't handled the mental side of the game to his fullest potential either, Benton said everything has fallen into place for him this preseason.

"Me learning the system more has been the biggest difference," Benton said of his emergence. "I have caught up with the pace of the game so I'm prepared."

Working behind Blake outside for the Tigers, Benton is still expected to get his fair share of playing time this season for Auburn's offense because Blake will likely move around to at least three different spots to put him in the best position to make plays.

While working on his own game Benton has also taken the time to help out some of the younger receivers such as Quan Bray, Jaylon Denson and C.J. Uzomah. He said the one thing he's seen from the young guys is a hunger to do the right thing, the same hunger he feels to become a go-to guy for the Tigers.

"They work hard," Benton said. "You're always one play away so you never know who might go down. You should always come to practice every day and work hard.

"It would mean a lot to me," he added. "I would have a chance to be a big leader."

That's the part of the game that his position Coach Trooper Taylor has seen the most improvement from in Benton. He said that has gone a long way towards his play on the field as well.

"I have been proud of him," Taylor said. "First of all he's stayed healthy. I know it's still early, but he's been healthy. The kid hasn't missed a practice at all. That has been good to see. Early in the camp he had pink eye and he hasn't missed a single snap.

"That lets me know his toughness is there. He has the want-to. He's answering questions like a quarterback would when before he only knew what he had to do. It just gives you that confidence as a coach and as a play caller to get him the ball and give him an opportunity."

After spending much of his first two seasons trying to find his way as a player, Benton is finally beginning to show some of the promise that he came to Auburn with considering his background as a high school All-American. Much of that comes from the confidence of doing things right in practice each and every day. That's the part of the game that Benton said has made him realize what it takes to be successful.

"Since I first got here I think I've gotten a whole lot better," Benton said. "From running routes, from catching the ball, knowing what to do, and giving great effort on every play, I'm improved."

This Saturday Benton will have his first chance to show just how much.

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