On the Defensive

West Virginia's Tyler Benoit will begin his collegiate career this fall on the defensive side of the ball, but not by choice.

The six-foot, 220-lb., Louisiana native is getting acclimated to the spur and bandit positions this summer, positions in which the coaching staff believes the speedy sophomore can flourish.

As Benoit stares across the line of scrimmage, however, he can't help but ponder what he could do with the ball in his hands.

"I try not to think about it," Benoit said. "But I'm an offensive guy."

A product of Comeaux High School, Benoit was a standout running back and cornerback during his prep career, while also excelling at track. He played cornerback almost exclusively his senior season (although he did rush for over 800 yards in six games), and collected a state track title in the 200 meters.

His speed certainly made Benoit compelling at wide receiver for WVU, a position that has been devoid of playmakers in recent years. But his combination of speed and his stocky frame make him a potential terror on the defensive side of the ball as well.

As the season approaches, Benoit is learning on the fly from experienced Mountaineer defenders such as Mike Lorello. He has added 15-20 pounds of muscle to his well-built frame, while maintaining the lightning speed that could make him one of West Virginia's top playmakers.

"Right now, I'm just trying to do the little things that make me better," Benoit said. "Just working on my technique and getting back into football shape."

Benoit sat out the 2004 season as a non-qualifier, and thus hasn't played since his senior year of high school in 2003.

He grew out of the body that made him a perfect fit for cornerback, but his experience in the defensive backfield make him a prime candidate to fill Lorello's void after the 2005 season. With more weight, however, could Benoit graduate to an outside linebacker position in the future?

"No, I'm going to stay where I'm at," Benoit said. "I'm too far along to switch now."

Benoit won't be entirely devoid of chances to get his hands on the ball, however. He hopes to follow in the footsteps of recently-departed PacMan Jones as a kick returner, and, of course, there's always the possibility of an interception or two as well. With a strong showing in practice in August, he could find himself in the mix for serious playing time on what should be a very strong Mountaineer defense.

Maybe then he'll be right where he wants to be.


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