One of the best features of the Senior Bowl is the ability for scouts and talent evaluators alike to to measure the abilities of smaller school, under-publicized players against their big school BCS conference brethren. We've seen non-BCS conference stars such as Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Mike Iupati, Vladamir Ducasse, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Louis Delmas among others transform their stock from the middle of the draft to first or second-round picks.
The small-school guy in this year's Senior Bowl that appears to be headed down the same path is University of Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Dwight Bentley. Bentley was impossible not to notice during this week's practices as he simply made plays against every receiver he lined up against, even if he was giving up as much as seven inches of height and 40 or more pounds.
"It's not about those other small school guys, it's what I have to do here for myself," Bentley explained. "For all of us small school guys, the NFL scouts want to see how you go out here and compete with the bigger school guys."
Whether he was matched up against North Carolina's Dwight Jones or Arizona's Juron Criner, Bentley treated them like they were some other ULL freshman as he upstaged his bigger school competition.
It's about coming out here and doing what I do best," a very focused Dwight Bentley said. "Not to take anything away from those guys, they're very good players but if I'm worried about those guys I'm not going to be out here doing what I have to do."
Bentley showed an ability to react on every football thrown in his direction and had countless pass breakups through individual, 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. He is very good in press coverage and was only defeated when asked by Vikings coaches to play off coverage and backpedal.
"My best attributes are my route recognition and playing fast," Bentley said "Once I know what I have to do, playing fast is the key to get the edge over people and beat them to their routes."
When asked who he models his game after, one big play cornerback came immediately to mind along with another first-round pick.
"I like Asante Samuel and Mike Jenkins," the former Ragin Cajun said emphatically.
The Pahokee, Florida native had arguably his best game of the season against ULL's toughest competition as he had a two-interception, one touchdown game against Fiesta Bowl champion Oklahoma State.
"I held my own against those guys," Bailey said of playing against Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon.
Aside from the obvious show that he put on during Senior Bowl week, Bentley seems like a player that any NFL team would love to have.
"I'm a hard worker, I get along with my teammates and I've tried to help everyone I played with get better," Bentley said when asked why an NFL team should feel confident drafting him. "I'm not a bad kid, I don't get in any trouble or have any off the field issues either."
Dwight Bentley appears to be this season's Senior Bowl rags to riches small school story, an overlooked talent who is making the most out of this opportunity.
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