Sophomore Tight End Catching On To New Offense

One of the key positions for the Auburn offense in 2004 is going to be tight end.

Auburn, Ala.–-When Coach Al Borges came to Auburn in the spring to take over the duties of offensive coordinator not many of the players knew what to expect. Hoping to find an offense that was built around being balanced and using the tight end, sophomore Cole Bennett says he was excited about seeing the new system unleashed.

More than two weeks into preseason practice, Bennett says that he's been very pleased with the development of the offense and particularly of the tight ends. With junior Cooper Wallace out for much of the preseason with a strained hamstring, Bennett has taken on the role of the veteran for the Tigers with Kyle Derozan, Charles Mullen and Danny Perry the only other players at the position.

"With him being out I realized that I couldn't sit around and waste time anymore, I couldn't make excuses for myself," the 6-5, 255-pound Bennett says. "I had to get it done because I'm number one. If I wanted to play more this year I had to prove it to the offense and myself. I just basically eliminated any doubts that I had and played like I belong. Hopefully, that's the way my play reflects."

Cole Bennett is hoping to play a bigger role on the AU team as a sophomore.

Working extremely hard during and after practice, Bennett says the tight ends have had a good preseason with Steve Ensminger working as their new position coach. Moved to tight ends from quarterbacks in the spring to make room for Borges, Ensminger has pushed the unit and Bennett says they have gotten better every day.

"I think we've come a long way," Bennett says, "especially since spring practice and the beginning of two-a-days. We're pushing through. We've all got nicks and bruises, but we're out here everyday and pushing through it and getting better. Coach Ensminger is really working us on the finer details and fundamentals to make us better players. We're learning the offense inside and out, which is going to make us better in the long run."

While much of the focus of Borges' offense has been on using both Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown at the same time in the backfield, the scheme is actually multiple with a variety of formations. The majority of those feature at least one tight end and sometimes two, a fact that doesn't go unnoticed by Bennett.

"I like it a lot," Bennett says. "You really have to think about it. You have to know what you are doing and know the defense. It's not so much, ‘This is your assignment and there's no variation. We've all got at least one or two checks on everything if not more. It keeps you awake and in tune so where you don't just line up and randomly hit people. You have to know what you're doing. It really makes everything more interesting."

Constantly on the mend after suffering a serious knee injury as a senior at Dalton High in Georgia, Bennett says that he feels better than he has in a long time this fall as he tries to push Cooper Wallace for the starting job at tight end. Despite being listed second on the depth chart following preseason practices, Bennett has shown that he can get the job done and he says that his play is going to show just that in 2004.

"Coming up on almost two years since my knee surgery I'm still having minor problems here or there," Bennett notes. "Working with Coach Yox (Kevin Yoxall) has given me the confidence because I'm bigger and can block and play better. Coach Ensminger has really been supportive in teaching us. Basically, I just have to go out and do it."

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