Heath Benedict turning heads

Four years ago it appeared that Tennessee made a mistake by signing him. Now it appears the mistake was in letting him get away.

Heath Benedict, who transferred to Newberry College after two undistinguished seasons with the Vols, is zooming up NFL draft boards based on his quality work in the practices leading up to Saturday's Senior Bowl all-star game at Mobile, Ala.

Here's what Tony Pauline has to say about him in a recent article called "Senior Bowl Risers And Sliders" posted at sportsillustrated.com:

"Heath Benedict/OL/Newberry: Stood out at both the left and right tackle positions this afternoon. He stopped defenders dead in their tracks on almost every snap and drew the applause of coaches a number of times."

Benedict, a 6-6, 332-pounder originally from Greer, S.C., was tabbed High School All-America by Parade, Tom Lemming, PrepStar and SuperPrep as a senior at The Peddie School in New Jersey. He played in the U.S. Army All-America Game and was one of the most celebrated members of the Vols' heralded 2002 signing class.

After redshirting as a freshman in 2002, however, Benedict underwent elbow surgery in the spring of 2003 and saw only mop-up duty that fall. He then transferred to Newberry, where he promptly blossomed into a star.

Pauline's article also mentions four SEC players among the "Risers". They are Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams, Kentucky tight end Jacob Tamme, LSU running back Jacob Hester and Florida receiver Andre Caldwell. Two more SEC players were singled out as "Sliders" – LSU cornerback Chevis Jackson and Auburn tight end Cole Bennett.

Two Tennessee players will be representing the South squad in Saturday's Senior Bowl – quarterback Erik Ainge and tight end Brad Cottam. An estimated 800 NFL scouts, coaches and decision-makers are in Mobile this week to assess the draft-eligible talent.

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