Fred Bennett: "May The Best Man Win"

Senior cornerback Fred Bennett has seen his share of battles on the gridiron, and he is gearing up for another monumental struggle on Saturday night. Tennessee will come into Columbia boasting the SEC's number one passing offense, while the Gamecocks claim the league's second ranked pass defense. spoke with Bennett, and he talked about this weekend's showdown with the Vols.

Question: Can you talk about going up against the high powered Tennessee passing attack this week?

Answer: They do some amazing things in the passing game. We're just going to have to buckle down and step our game up another notch this week.

Question: Does the fact that you guys shut down Earl Bennett last week help your confidence heading into this game?

Answer: Yeah, that game gave us a lot of confidence. Like I said, our young DB's came out and showed that they can play. I knew all along that they could play, but last week they just showed the world what they can do. Earl Bennett is a great receiver. I thought they did a great job on him, and I think our confidence level is going to be real high going into Tennessee. I'm pretty sure we'll be well prepared.

Question: Can you talk about Captain Munnerlyn and what he's like both on and off the field?

Answer: He's a great player and a great person too. I've kind of taken him under my wing and shown him the ropes of the college life on and off the field. Mostly on the field, Coach Cooper asked me to take him under my wing, and that's what I've got to do as a leader. As a senior, I've just got to take control and take those young guys under my wing and show them, ‘Hey, do this and do that.' I let them know what they're doing wrong and let them know what they're doing right.

Question: Munnerlyn always seems like he's full of life. Can you talk about that?

Answer: Yeah, he's a funny guy. He loves competing. He's a competitor, and that's one thing I love about him. He's not afraid to say, ‘Hey, I'll take that challenge.' If it's a senior up there, he'll step up and say, ‘I'll take that challenge.' He's real confident in himself.

Question: Tennessee obviously had some struggles last season, but do they appear different to you on film this year as far as their confidence level and execution?

Answer: I don't know what they were going through last year. That's their program. I know from watching them this year, they do some great things. I think they got that thing rolling and turned it around from last year. They're having a wonderful season, and their head coach is doing a great job with their players, and their players are buying into what the coaches are trying to do. I think they're doing a great job from what I've seen on film, and it's going to be a great game.

Question: Their passing offense against your pass defense will pit strength against strength. Can you talk about that challenge?

Answer: It's going to be an exciting match up. I'm pretty sure they're going to want to get after us, and I know we're going to want to get after them. We're going to buckle down, and we're going to bring our ‘A' game, and I know they're going to bring their ‘A' game. It all boils down to who wants it the most.

Question: Do you get the sense that this game is a little bigger for Coach Spurrier? He really likes to beat Philip Fulmer.

Answer: I don't know what's going on between those two, but I know we've got a coach that loves competing and loves to win. I'm pretty sure our Head Coach is going to bring his ‘A' game this week. I know Tennessee's coach is going to bring his ‘A' game too, so it's going to be an exciting match up.

Question: Can you talk about Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem?

Answer: He's a great receiver. I've seen some of the things he did, and I think he's one of the leading receivers in the nation. He's doing some great things, and their quarterback is getting the ball to him. He's making plays.

Question: Are Tennessee's receivers the best you will face this year?

Answer: Every year I always say that Tennessee has one of the best receiving corps in the nation. They're big, physical, and they can run. We're just going to have to strap it on.

Question: What's the key for going up against them?

Answer: The key is there is no key. We've just got to go play, and may the best man win.

Question: Do you guys talk about your position in the SEC-East and what can happen if you win these big games?

Answer: No, we don't talk about it. We don't even discuss it, but I know it's in the back of our minds. It's in the back of everybody's minds what we can do with this program. We can make some history, and so it's in the back of our minds, but we don't discuss it. We just take it one game at a time.

Question: How big is this game for you guys with Gameday coming and hosting a top 10 team on national TV?

Answer: It's a great chance for us to go in here and try to beat a ranked team. It's been a while since we did that, so it's going to be a great task. I know me and the players and the coaches are looking forward to it. Like I said, we've got a chance to make history. We're just trying to take it one game at a time.

Question: Do you have a message to Lee Corso?

Answer: No, I have no message. I heard a couple of comments he made last year, but I don't get into all that. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion… I'm pretty sure he'll make another prediction for this week, so he's entitled to his opinion, but the only thing we can do is go out there and play and try to prove him wrong.

Question: Is there added pressure on the secondary this week with all of the youth back there?

Answer: There's no pressure at all. Pressure busts pipes, but we're not pipes, we're human. I don't think it's going to affect us at all. I think the young guys, they're really not young anymore. What have they got, seven games under their belt now? They're not rookies anymore, and they're not freshmen anymore. They're vets, so we've just got to go out there and do what we're asked to do by our coaches.

Question: Do you believe this secondary has improved as the year has gone along?

Answer: I think we've improved very well. Coach Ron Cooper, he does such a great job with us in practice, so I thought we've improved. We're just buying into what he's trying to do, and he's a great teacher. I mean that. I think what it is is we've got a lot of people that want to learn and want to get better. I think from the first game to last week we're just much improved.

Question: What do you think about some critics saying this secondary doesn't like to tackle or can't tackle?

Answer: I know that one of the questions on me was ‘Can I tackle?' I kind of know why, because last year I had a banged up shoulder. People doubted me, but I'm pretty sure I've quieted all the critics. If you look at that film, you can see me tackling and you can see me come up and hitting. I'm not afraid, and I don't mind getting physical. I know our defense doesn't mind getting physical, so whoever thinks we can't tackle or we're not physical enough, just come watch a game… I think our defensive backs are tackling real well. Tackling is just attitude, and you've got to have the attitude and the will to want to tackle.

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