Benson making big impression this spring

Marcel Benson, an athletic 6-6, 320-pound offensive tackle, has made quite an impression with his play this spring. Benson drew high praise from assistant Mike Summers after Wednesday's practice, and the talented junior appears to be well on his way toward cementing a starting job on the offensive line.

Marcel Benson appears to be well on his way toward locking down a starting job at the weak-side offensive tackle position for the Louisville Cardinals.

An athletic 6-6, 320-pound junior from San Diego, California, Benson redshirted last season after transferring from Mesa C.C. Though he didn't see game action in 2005, Benson traveled with the team and took reps with the second team offense the entire season. Benson said that experience proved beneficial as he tries to cement his place on the first team offense this spring.

"Traveling and going to other stadiums gave me a feel for the crowds and how they're going to be," said Benson. "It was a good experience."

Offensive line coach Mike Summers spoke highly of the massive Benson, particularly his passion and desire to become the best player he can be.

"He's done a good job," Summers said. "He improves everyday. He has a long way to go to be game ready, but I see improvement, and I see his passion to be a good player. And he's certainly got the talent. So the only thing he's missing is the experience."

Benson is getting plenty of experience this spring. He's played exclusively with the first unit offense, and has shown flashes that he can become a dominant figure on the Cardinals' offensive front.

"He's very athletic for 320-pounds," said Summers. "He has a good lower body, and he can move his feet well. He has a real steady emotional state – he doesn't get too excited or too down, which is a good thing. And he really cares about being a good football player."

Benson agreed that his athleticism gives him a leg up on his opponents.

Benson has a rare combination of size and athleticism.

"I have real quick feet," Benson said. "Most big guys aren't able to move like I can to get to where you need to be."

And while Benson possesses extraordinary athleticism for an offensive tackle, that trait alone won't help him reach his enormous potential. In fact, Summers pointed out two key areas that he'd like to see improvement from Benson.

"He needs to gain a lot of strength with a lot of weight room work, and just have better understanding and knowledge of our offense," said Summers. "He needs to be a more physical football player at this level."

Benson said he's starting to get a better handle on the U of L offense.

"I'm starting to pick up on the plays real well," he said. "It's just getting in there and getting repetitions. That's really what makes a big impact."

"As far as strength, it'll come," Benson said. "I'm working hard in the weight room – I'm what they call ‘grinding.' Grinding is just getting in there, getting to work with a quick tempo and busting your butt."

Though Benson isn't where he wants to be in terms of strength, he has made strides in the weight room since arriving in Louisville last year.

"Right now I'm benching 300-pounds," Benson said. "It's not good, but it's a lot better than when I came in benching 265-pounds."

With Benson, Renardo Foster, Kurt Quarterman and George Bussey, Summers believes he has the ingredients for an extremely athletic and talented unit. Whether or not the offensive line reaches its potential will, in large part, be based on the chemistry the unit develops this spring.

"If we can do a good job of creating chemistry that our previous offensive lines have had, then they have the opportunity to be pretty good," Summers said.

"We just got to work and come together," Benson added.

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