The Vikings are coming right off the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and will be jumping into free agency soon, but one position where they are clearly showing interest for April’s draft is offensive tackle.
One of those players is Newberry’s Heath Benedict, who confirmed interest by the Vikings in a recent interview with VU.
“Yeah definitely,” Benedict said when asked about interest from the Vikings. “I’ve talked to the Vikings several different times, at the Senior Bowl, at the combine, and you know I love the Vikings. I think it’s a good fit for me. Hopefully they like me too from the interest they’ve shown. I’d love to be a Viking.”
Benedict would make very good sense for the Vikings in the mid portion of the draft.
“I’ve heard anywhere from [round] two to five,” Benedict said. “Late-2 to early-3 is the most common thing I’ve heard.”
He has played both tackle spots in college but would probably be best-suited for the right side with the Vikings, maybe starting as a backup at right guard or right tackle, with long-range hopes of pushing for the starting right tackle spot over time.
When asked which position he’d prefer, Benedict will do whatever the coaches want.
“[I’m] probably more comfortable playing on the right side because I’ve played it more, but wherever some team wants me to play,” he said. “I’ve heard some teams like me at tackle, some like to put me at guard. Some are thinking guard to protect me at first because my technique is not real strong, and then move me out to tackle. I’ve heard all different things.
He also offered this self-assessment as a prospect: “I’m very athletic for my size. As far as things I need to work on, the technique is a big issue, the flexibility. But I think I’m real powerful and real athletic and move well and can be a good fit at guard or at tackle.”
“I think because of my athleticism I can be a power guy but I can also pull and trap and block in space. You know, I enjoy getting out on those little guys.”
“I played right tackle at Newberry my first three years because we had a left-handed quarterback, then I moved to left tackle because we had a right-hander.”
Unfortunately, injuries muddled most of his senior campaign. Benedict came back early from a serious ankle injury and played, but that led to a foot injury as he tried to compensate for the ankle problem.
“I was pretty much hurt all last year with my ankle and then foot injury,” he said. “I played hurt all year.”
But he received a clean bill of health at the Combine.
“I felt great and all the medicals went real well,” he said. “I got cleared by everyone. I’m real happy with how that all turned out.”
One thing he wasn’t satisfied with was his overall performance at the Combine, despite the fact that he ran at least a 5.09 forty (officially) at 326 pounds and posted the fastest 10-yard time among offensive tackles at 1.71 seconds. He also put up 28 reps at 225 pounds and vertical-jumped 28.5 inches, which was also tops among the offensive tackles.
Benedict is still hoping to do even better at his Pro Day workout later. “I hit pretty good numbers at the combine but that was pretty much a disastrous day for me,” he said. “You know I still did alright, but I wasn’t very pleased. I’ve been hitting some pretty impressive numbers coming in. I don’t know if my legs were just dead or tired or whatever. I had pretty good numbers [at Indy], but not the numbers I have been used to hitting, so I’m hoping to do even better at my Pro Day.”
Another area of appeal for Benedict to the Vikings is his character. Benedict is a solid, down-to-earth, respectful, mature young man.
“I’ve never had any off-the-field issues, even at Tennessee,” he said. “You know, never been arrested, never been positive for a drug test. The worst thing I’ve ever done is gotten a couple speeding tickets.”
Despite playing at Division II Newberry, Benedict was originally heavily recruited and began his college career at Tennessee. But he transferred after one year with the Volunteers.
“I was a big baseball pitcher in high school and was really behind the curve as a football player,” he said. “I started out at D-tackle then moved to offensive guard. Kind of got behind the 8-ball and decided to go somewhere else. I had some [family] connections at Newberry and because it was Division II, I wouldn’t have to sit out.”
Benedict will be with family and friends on draft day waiting to find out where he goes. From his perspective, he would be delighted if the Vikings called his name.