White men CAN jump

One of the oldest stereotypes in football is the white receiver who offsets a lack of blazing speed by running great routes and catching everything within reach.

That stereotype developed thanks to guys like Fred Biletnikoff, Larry Seivers and Chris Collinsworth; it continues thanks to guys like Michael Bennett.

Bennett is a 6-3, 180-pound senior at Alpharetta (Ga.) High School who turned some heads at the recent Tennessee football camp by – you guessed it – running great routes and catching everything within reach. That's pretty much his standard operating procedure, though.

"He's a very polished receiver who runs great routes," Alpharetta head coach Jason Dukes said. "And his hands are fantastic. Last year he had one drop in all of our games. For as many balls as we threw him, that was pretty doggone good."

Although Bennett is no world-class sprinter, he's no plodder, either.

"People make a point of wanting 4.3 and 4.4 guys," Dukes said. "I don't know that Michael's that fast. He's been clocked at 4.45 before and he's been clocked at 4.6 before. It depends on what surface he's running on and whether it's hand-timed or electronically timed.

"I'll tell you this, though: When Michael catches the ball he NEVER gets caught from behind."

In addition to nice acceleration, Bennett has an aggressive nature and considerable spring in his legs.

"He does a very, very good job of adjusting to the ball, then going up and getting it," Dukes said. "He might need to improve on getting separation, but he makes up for that with his ability to go up over most defensive backs and get the ball. He recorded a 40-inch vertical jump at one Combine and a 38 at another."

Who says white men can't jump?

Most pale-skinned wideouts wind up being typecast as "possession receivers." That tag may not fit Bennett, who produces touchdowns as well as first downs.

"His junior film is just one big play after another," Dukes said. "That's the best thing I can say about Michael: He just makes plays."

Bennett made plenty of plays at Tennessee's recent camp, despite going against a lot of defensive backs who'll be signing college scholarships next February.

"His sheer competitive nature stands out, especially in a situation like at Tennessee's camp, where there were so many good receivers and so many good defensive backs," Dukes said. "He likes being challenged because he really wants to be a go-to guy. When he's put in those situations he usually comes up with the big play."

Bennett already holds offers from Wisconsin, Syracuse and all of the MAC schools. He is starting to attract attention from SEC programs, as well.

"Florida seems to be very interested; he's headed down there Sunday to their skills camp," Dukes said. "Kentucky's very interested; they want him there Friday for their skills camp. And he's going to Georgia next week.

"I think a lot of schools have seen his tape and just want to see him in person. I don't think he'll disappoint anywhere he goes."

In addition to his receiving ability, Bennett has some potential as a defender.

"He plays safety for us, and that would be an option in college," Dukes said, "but he loves having the ball in his hand. Playing safety in our spring game he came in from the hash and literally knocked one of our receivers out. He's not shy about hitting. He will bring it."

Still, Bennett's future appears to be on the offensive side of the ball. Realizing as much, he skipped running track this spring to hone his receiving skills. One of his tutors was former Atlanta Falcon wideout Stacey Bailey.

"Stacey Bailey lives in our community, and he's been working with Michael twice a week," Dukes noted. "That type of concentrated coaching has really helped Michael become a very good high school receiver and it will help him at the next level, as well. College coaches are going to find that Michael already knows a lot. And he's very coachable.

"He will, I believe, have an opportunity to make an impact early."


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