Cardinals Look at Another Versatile Lineman

The Cardinals will look to fortify their offensive line during the draft. Ken Whisenhunt would like to bring in a versatile player who can provide depth at tackle and perhaps push Reggie Wells for playing time at guard. Arizona might have met the perfect prospect during Senior Bowl week.

Heath Benedict (6'5", 333 pounds) is blessed with great power and quickness. He has the strength to be an effective in-line blocker and the agility to pass protect out on an island.

Benedict began his college career at Tennessee, but decided that it wasn't a good fit for him and transferred to Newberry College, a Division II school with a student population of little more than 700.

Benedict dominated his final two collegiate seasons, winning the SAC Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earning First Team AP Little All-American honors in 2006 and 2007. He was a Gene Upshaw Award national finalist as a senior.

He got his first taste of the Big Leagues during Senior Bowl week, when he was able to work with the coaching staff of the San Francisco 49ers. He said working with professional coaches was "a dream come true. I had a great college coach, but it's always nice to make the next step."

San Francisco coach Mike Nolan was impressed by Benedict, but cautioned against expecting a smooth transition from a Division II school to the NFL.

"He's competing pretty good and that's really what I go off at this level," said Nolan from Mobile, Ala. "He short-set once on a pass and the guy went right by him...but he's playing against a different level of player than he's played before.

"In the case of people like (Benedict) who come from smaller schools, they're here because they're deserving of it, but sometimes it's a little more challenging than they're used to. That's really not an indication of how far they can go."

The Cardinals could use a talented lineman of Benedict's ilk. He could help protect quarterback Matt Leinart , who has finished the last two season's on the injured-reserve list.

It remains to be seen what the Cardinals could realistically expect from Benedict in 2008. However, if his attitude from the Senior Bowl is any indication, he is ready to accept any challenge.

"To be able to come here and compete against these great players -- the best players in college -- is a great opportunity," said Benedict from the Senior Bowl.

Benedict may have been a big fish in a little pond, but a piranha is still a piranha no matter the size of the water.

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