Benson: Not 'Respected Within Organization' In '02

Maybe Texas players and coaches meant no disrespect, but try telling that to RB <B>Cedric</B> <B>Benson</B>. After what he considered a sub-par 1,293-yard season in 2002, Benson said Monday that he did not &quot;feel respected within the organization&quot; by the end of his sophomore year.

"I’m sure they (players and coaches) had expectations of me," he said, "and I guess when I did not meet their expectations they kind of turned their heads and started second-guessing me."

From Benson’s perspective, the lack of respect was evident when he was yanked prematurely from games.

"I mean, there would be games where I’d get rolling and then I’d get pulled out," he said. "You don’t want to get pulled out when you’re rolling. You want to stay in there and just roll."

Now, his plan for staying in the game is simple: "You let them know that you’re the man. You let them know that you aren’t going to settle for anything short of great."

I asked Benson to supply his definition of great.

"No missed reads, no missed blocks, no missed passes, great steps in every hole, seeing every hole, exploding through every hole, YAC (yards-after-contact) throughout every quarter, touchdowns," he said, before laughing. "That’s kind of a perfect game, huh? It’s very hard to do, but that’s what I’m working on."

So disappointed in last season’s rushing totals was Benson that he has set no personal expectations for this season.

"I expected to have a blowout year (in 2002)," Benson said. "(I expected to) come into North Texas and run it for three hundred yards."

The book on Benson is largely positive. The second-team All-Big 12 (AP) ball carrier is one of only three returning Division I-A backs to have rushed for 1,000 yards the past two years. In fact, with 2,346 career rushing yards, Benson trails only Longhorn legend Roosevelt Leaks among UT running backs for rushing yards in their first two seasons.

The flipside is Benson topped the century mark just three times in 2002 and was held to less than 100 yards in each of his final five contests. In fact, backup Selvin Young was the leading rusher against LSU and Baylor.


He does, however, have the confidence of knowing that he is now "bigger, faster, stronger" than ever and that his "vision is even better." Benson has also recovered from nagging injuries (turf toe, rib) and has flourished under new RB coach Michael Haywood’s penchant for a bruising running game that will emphasize pounding the ball rather than attempting to finesse your way around defenders. Benson is also more rested heading into Sunday’s season opener against New Mexico State since he, by and large, gave up minor league baseball this summer.

"It made a lot of difference since I was able to get back and, other than being out on the field in the sun all day and then have to go into the weight room, I was able to go into the weight room, run, and get a lot more things done, and then rest," he said.

While he has not publicly disclosed personal expectations, his goal is simply for the team to win every week.

"I know that by doing that, everything else will fall into place," Benson said. "I remember my high school coach telling me not to go out there trying to run for two- or three-hundred yards; just go out there and try to win."

Last year’s ground game averaged an anemic 135.5 ypg that finished No. 74 nationally. Despite an otherwise impressive 11-2 mark and a No. 6 (AP) national ranking, the 2002 season was a roller coaster from an offensive perspective, Benson surmised.

"It was up one week and down the next, down the next two (weeks) and up again," he said. "We couldn’t get the ball rolling in the same groove."

But Benson promises the entire offense has a new attitude born of last year’s frustration.

"We’re ready to blow people up," he said. "We’re ready to move north and south."

And move, presumably, toward greater respect.

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