Isaac Bennett was heading for a redshirt in his freshman year. That was until injuries stacked up at running back. Just a few games left in 2011, Bennett found himself in the starting lineup.
He played in the season's final five games, starting two. He finished with 237 yards and two touchdowns, in 58 carries. Roughly, an average of 4.1 yards a carry.
Last spring, he took virtually every snap at running back. He continued to take a significant number of reps in training camp. This with the return of senior Ray Graham, heralded freshman Rushel Shell and Malcolm Crockett--who redshirted in 2011.
While it was Graham back as the senior veteran, Bennett saw his number of carries go down. As opposed to 58 carries in five games in 2011, he ran it all of 29 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Half as many carries in more than twice as many games, 12. Shell took most of the reps, getting 141 carries, behind Graham's 222 carries.
How did Bennett handle being displaced by a running back one year younger than him, despite handling much of the workload in the spring and in the fall?
"When I'm out there, every rep, every play, it's just a chance to get better," Bennett says. "All I'm worried about is that play I'm in in the moment. We're ready. It's fun being out there. When he calls my name, I'm just ready to do my part."
With Shell out, and the possibility of him transferring, Bennett finds himself once again handling the workload, sharing carries with Crockett and with redshirt freshman Demitrious Davis, who was moved to running back during his 2012 redshirt season.
Bennett says he'll approach it the same way--just a chance to get better, a chance to simply play football.
"Things happen," Bennett said. "You just have to move on and stay focused on things that matter."
Crockett--who came in with Bennett, in the 2011 recruiting class--he too had to sit behind Shell, despite having one year on him. It didn't bother him, either. Like Bennett, having more carries this spring, is just another opportunity to get better, and just play football.
Crockett played in 12 games in his first season of action, playing mostly on special teams. He rushed for 50 yards on 12 carries; 32 yards in the win over Gardner-Webb, 18 in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Ole Miss.
"Even though you might not be in the spot you want, keep fighting; never keep your head down," Crockett said. "Just keep fighting because when an opportunity opens, you have to take advantage of it.
"It's something I've been preparing for. I know my time will come. It's here, so every rep, every second I'm just going hard to the fullest. Eventually, I'm going to try to start."
Despite competing against each other for reps, the two are very good friends--even joking with each other, to who is faster, who has more power, or even if there are similarities or differences in the type of running back they are.
""You could say that Isaac and I are similar backs," Crockett said. "We're both hard runners. He might have a little more speed over me. We're kind of mostly similar. Isaac's a very good back. He's very shifty. He hits the hole hard. I bring the same things. It's a good rotation, going back and forth.
"To be honest, I would win the race (laughs). (Bennett) is a good guy. He has a good humor. He's a good guy to talk to. We work hard off of each other. We always make everything a competition. We try to make each other better."