Wide Receiver/Tight End
Florida State University Seminoles
Belle Glade, Florida
Glade Central High School
In this day and age of football, when evaluating receivers, "bigger is better" seems to be what most teams covet. The Seminole product not only proved that last season, when he became the team's first 1,000-yard pass catcher since Anquan Boldin in 2002. Benjamin's 1,011 yards last season marked just the tenth time that Florida State had a player gain 1,000-yards receiving in a season since the university began playing organized football in 1947.
The narrative has been set as a Florida State wide receiver for the past decade: a new, talented recruit picks up a ton of hype from media, fans — even coaches — and is dubbed the next Peter Warrick, the next great pass-catching hope. But inevitably, he falters some-here along the way. Too many drops at practice, an injury too severe or nagging to ove-come, an inability to block the comments heaped upon him by critics.
Arguably, since 2002, no Seminole has been able to make the leap from being a middle of the pack route runner and reach elite level. Anquan Boldin may have arguably been the Seminoles' most recent elite receiver. After him, the collective has been good, great even, but no one has truly seemed to differentiate themselves as "the guy" for the 'Noles.
This year, many scouts are predicting that Benjamin will break that mold and be the next impact receiver to come out of the Florida State program. The coaches have searched far and wide for talent to end that drought at the receiver position. In 2013, there were 15 scholarship receivers on their national championship team, but none had a "bigger" impact, both in size and production than Benjamin.
The redshirt sophomore ranked second on the team with 54 catches, but turned those grabs into 1,011 yards, tied for the seventh-best season total by a Seminole. He turned 15 of those tosses into touchdowns, which tied the school annual record and also tied for fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference record book.
National honors came Benjamin's way after that impressive performance, but the humble pass catcher takes greater pride in his unit's accomplishments and not his own individual success. "You can't just focus on one person," receiver Rashad Greene said. "We have a lot of guys that can play."
"I think we got the best receiving corps of the nation," 6-foot-6 wideout Kelvin Benjamin added. "We got small skinny guys that are quick, that can't be touched off the line, then we got the big guys who go get the ball; the red zone type of players."
Variety can be good and quarterback Jameis Winston utilized all of his receivers' assets, all the way to becoming the youngest person to ever win the Heisman Trophy in 2013, in addition to targeting Benjamin often to end the year as national champions.
Benjamin's rededication this season has him destined to be one of the first receivers to hear his name called during the 2014 NFL Draft. He has come a long way since he first arrived on campus as a freshman so overweight, that the coaches could not justify putting him on the football field. The year observing from the sidelines made him realize that he was his own worst enemy and the only solution was to "buckle down" and get himself back in the good graces of his position coaches and make sure that he had better learn head coach Jimbo Fisher's complex offense.
"I wasn't fit to play," Benjamin admitted. "I think I could have played, but I don't think I would have met the expectations." He spent the off-season prior to the 2012 trimming down to around 240 pounds (he admits his previous weight was upwards of 255, but the coaches state it was much more) and has was complimented from players and coaches throughout fall practices.
The obvious NFL comparison to Benjamin is Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions' star receiver nicknamed "Megatron" for his ability to haul in highlight reel-worthy plays. The Seminole receiver apparently recognized this as well, and his Twitter avatar has a picture of Johnson at the top with his "Megatron" nickname and Benjamin at the bottom with an "Optimus Prime" moniker.
Benjamin's aggressive physicality combined with his tall frame began to create match-up nightmares for most secondaries he faced in 2012. Quarterback E.J. Manual was nursing injury issues in 2012, but the team still managed to averaged 265.29 aerial yards per game. Benjamin began the year listed third on the depth chart at the "Z" receiver position, but thanks to his secondary teammates "tutoring him" in practice, he had a quiet, yet efficient season to finish fourth on the team with thirty receptions for 495 yards and four scores.
Benjamin continued to shed weight leading up to the 2013 season opener and the coaches elevated him to "Z" receiver duties with the first unit. They saw a player who looked and felt quicker and stronger out of his breaks. Florida State's own cornerbacks had difficulty with him in practice. "To guard somebody with a body as wide and strong is real hard because you got to be on point," former cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. "Because if you're not, he is going to catch the ball and it's hard to knock the ball out of his hand. And he can jump in the air, also. It's real tough. It's real tough."
During one fall practice prior to the 2013 season opener, 5-foot, 8-inch FSU cornerback/ free safety Lamarcus Joyner was asked how to defend a jump ball vs. Benjamin. He chuckled and said, "it hasn't come down to that yet, but I know it will someday." Both teammates in practice and opponents throughout the 2013 campaign realized that his combination of size and speed made it almost unfair to cover him.
Benjamin was noticeably eager to make a claim of being "the guy" during his redshirt sophomore season. "I think I'm going to be that receiver that's going out there making big plays, motivating the team," he said. "If we're third-and-10, go and make that catch for the first down." The receiver knew that there would be pressure on him, but he also knew what the coaches' expectations were. Unprepared to meet those requirements when he first arrived on campus in 2011, he was more than prepared to deal with it as the 2013 season opener approached.
"I know there's a lot of hype going around right now," he said. "But I just try to stay away from the hype because once you got that hype set so far up, it's nothing but down from there." The way the receiver figured it, either way, it seems the only place he's really going may be up. An up he went, as 46 of his 54 receptions last season produced first downs or touchdowns.
Benjamin converted six third-down tosses and made 11 "highlight reel" catches inside the red zone. He produced 42 receptions for at least 10 yards, along with recording 25 grabs that went for distances of twenty yards or longer. In addition to his 15 scoring catches, he had key receptions on 25 other touchdown drives (team recorded 84 touchdowns in 2013, with Benjamin having a hand in forty of them), along with helping set up four possessions that ended in field goals. He reached the end zone in 10 of the 14 games that he appeared in for the Seminoles in 2013.
Benjamin caught the game-winning, 2-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston that gave the Seminoles a 34-31 victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.
A few days after the triumph, the receiver announced that he was leaving school and was entering the 2014 NFL Draft pool. Many talent evaluators agree that the Seminole has a perfect blend of size and speed, along with the long arms that he utilizes to do a nice job fully extending to create an enormous catching radius for cornerbacks to try and defend.
Benjamin appeared in 24 games at Florida State, starting his final 14 contests at the "Z" receiver position…Finished with 84 receptions for 1,506 yards (17.93 ypc) and 19 touchdowns…Also carried the ball twice for 33 yards.