SEC Media Days: Get Ready for Earl Bennett

HOOVER, Ala. -- Yesterday I wrote about how strange it was to see the best quarterback in the SEC residing in Lexington, Kentucky. Well, if you think that's weird, how about the top receiver in the SEC being a Vanderbilt Commodore? Well that's precisely the case as junior sensation Earl Bennett readies for another season in Nashville, Tennessee.

Bennett has already caught 161 passes for 2,022 yards in just two seasons and is just 48 receptions from becoming the SEC's all-time record holder in that category and the yardage record is also within reach. And he has two years of eligibility to go. Bennett is perhaps the single most important reason why Vanderbilt is talking bowl bid in 2007. That's pretty bold talk for a program that has not gone bowling since 1982, which is also the last time Vandy posted a winning record.

Bennett meanwhile spoke with the media boys in Birmingham (his home town) about his hopes and aspirations for this season and beyond.

How you feel about closing in on the SEC receptions record?

"It would be awesome to be remembered as one of the best receivers in this conference, but it would mean a lot more to go to a BCS Bowl game if we were able to do that."

What are your strengths as a receiver?

"Route running and blocking would probably be my two best qualities. Route running would probably the main key (of the two) because the coaches emphasize it so much.

Who if anyone do you try to pattern your game after?

"In the pros right now it would have to be Hines Ward. I really love Hines Ward because he is a great blocker and route runner. He finishes the ball when he catches it and I just admire him for it."

You're a junior this year. You are going to have to make a decision (about the NFL after this season. How tough will it be to decide?

"It's going to be very tough because I love Vanderbilt University. I love my coaches and my teammates. After the season I'm going to have to sit down and talk about it, but the NFL is not really on my mind just yet I'm just thinking about Richmond and our first game."

Bennett says his favorite touchdown came against the Gators. You remember it, the one in The Swamp which set up the overtime game two years ago. Bennett got a really flimsy unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play which eliminated the Commodores opportunity to go for two points and the win. In two years against the Gators, Bennett has caught 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. I asked Gator safety Tony Joiner about playing against Vanderbilt's star wide out.

"He's a great receiver a very talented receiver," Joiner said. "He can make catches in clutch situations. He's got elusive speed. You really don't see it but he's fast and he's a guy that will really step up and make the big plays."

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