Breakout Time for Benton?

Freshman wide receiver DeAngelo Benton caught a half dozen passes in Auburn's Homecoming victory.

Auburn, Ala.--Back in preseason Auburn's football coaches had high hopes that newcomer DeAngelo Benton could be an immediate impact player for the offense at wide receiver.

As the Tigers head into game 11 vs. the Georgia Bulldogs, that hasn't happened. In fact, the former high school star from Bastrop, La., didn't make his first collegiate reception until game 10 vs. Furman. That is definitely not what was expected from the Parade All-American who signed with LSU twice, but on his third try to get into college he decided to be an Auburn Tigers.

However, neither Benton nor his coaches say they are discouraged about the wide receiver's slow start as a collegian.

Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn notes that he was excited about what he saw on Saturday when the little-used reserve received extensive playing time with the second team and finished the Homecoming game with six catches for 88 yards.

"I am really hoping that game will give DeAngelo confidence," Malzahn says. "He is a phenomenal player, but he hasn't played in two years."

Auburn wide receivers coach, Trooper Taylor, said after Wednesday evening's practice that the freshman has a chance to develop into a star for the Tigers.

Benton has had to work to get back into a groove as a football player after not being able to play the previous two seasons while he worked on becoming an academic qualifier.

Asked if he feels like he has gotten the rust off yet, he says, "I feel that way now. I need to continue to work hard, don't get cocky and do what I am supposed to do."

The freshman was hoping to contribute earlier, but says support from his teammates and others has kept him from getting discouraged. One of those who has been on his corner is Darvin Adams, the guy who is first string on the depth chart ahead of Benton. "He helped me," Benton notes. "He told me to keep my head up and when my time comes to make the best of it."

Benton runs after making a catch vs. Furman on Saturday.

Some freshmen arrive on campus with big egos and get frustrated when they aren't immediate stars at the collegiate level like they were in high school. "All of the hype with me coming in, that really didn't get to me," the freshman says. "I just came in to work hard.

"I stayed focused, stayed on my path and I am trying to be successful now," he adds, noting that he didn't get too stressed when watching other receivers receive playing time week after week while he watched from the sidelines. "I went through a lot to get here," he points out. "It wasn't a time for me to quit. I had all of my family and friends behind me so I couldn't just let them down."

Benton notes that making the jump from high school to SEC football has not been easy. "You have got to be extremely ready to play at this level," he says, noting that getting back into football shape and learning Malzahn's system didn't happen overnight. "It took me a while to do that," he says.

Last Saturday, although the competition was not at SEC level, Benton's ability was obvious. He didn't look like the tentative freshman who had dropped the only two passes thrown to him in games prior to the Furman contest.

Benton says he doesn't know if his performance will mean more playing time down the stretch run of the 2009 season, but he notes that he felt "pretty good" about what happened. "I just went out with a lot of confidence, played to my abilities and everything worked out for me," he says.

The wide receiver says that Trooper Taylor, his position coach, has been encouraging the freshman. "He thought I did pretty good, but I can do better," Benton notes. "He gave me a lot of confidence to just continue throughout the rest of the season."

Benton says he is also gaining confidence in the classroom as he is receiving good tutoring as he makes the adjustment to college classes. "School is going pretty good," he points out. "I am really focused on my school work."

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