0

LORAN SMITH COLUMN: Unlikely to be a star upon first glance, freshman Bennett emerges as big-play WR for Georgia

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Those who saw Michael Bennett's lone seven-yard catch in the spring game in April did not place his name on the list of high expectations. That pretty much has been the story of his life, but more often than not, his name is prominently noted when there is a victory celebration.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound redshirt freshman from Alpharetta only got a single offer from a Southeastern Conference team -- the University of Georgia. He hardly got settled on campus when he learned that he would be redshirted. Practicing, with positive thinking in tow, brought respect from the coaches, and when he reported for fall camp a year later, he was listed as the number two split end behind Marlon Brown.

A burner he is not. In fact, he often makes light of his speed by saying, "For a white boy, I'm not too bad.."

Sense of humor, self-flagellation aside, Bennett is one of those overachievers who takes a measured approach to mastering his job. Work hard is the first priority. Studying the opponent is important -- which means time must be spent with videotape -- of his performance and that of the forthcoming opponent. He is quick to note that if things came easily, it might affect his production.

The Georgia coaches watched him in summer camp when he was in high school. There was nothing flashy about his play, but there was something that caught their eye. He seemed to always be making catches, always finding the alley to the goal line.

Against Florida, Mark Richt gambled twice on the fourth down. Both times, Georgia came away with touchdown passes, one to Tavares King and one to Michael.

"It was a slant, go route," he says. "Aaron (Murray) threw the ball to my back, and I had to go up and get it. It was a good pass -- I just had to do the rest."

With the score tied last week in the Auburn game, 7-7, his touchdown catch would open the floodgates for the Bulldog offense. He ran a deep route and as the ball angled by the defender, at the last minute with his sure hands, Michael grabbed the ball and gave his team a lead they would not lose.

He was running right to where his girlfriend Audrey Trammell was sitting in the student section, although he didn't know until after the game where she was sitting. The catch would earn time on SportsCenter and reflections on the good things that have come his way as a Bulldog.

A disclaimer was in order as he reviewed weekend events. Before he could accept bows for his big play, he had to remind everyone of a faux pas.

"I shoulda' had another catch," he explained. "I missed a sure touchdown in the game but didn't run the route like I should have, and it gave the Auburn defender time to tip the ball away. (Receivers) coach (Tony) Ball was on the phone getting after me when that happened."

What this means is that Michael has talent and he is a receiver who doesn't seem to be a big threat. But, like many sure-handed and dedicated receivers over the years, he is the type that will often lull you to sleep. You don't pay them serious attention, and the next thing you know, they have slipped by you for a big play.

"Michael has demonstrated toughness. That is what I like about him the most," Ball said. "He has gotten better at running routes, and he makes the tough catches. He is very reliable."

Born in State College, Pennsylvania, Bennett is a serious student, making the SEC honor roll as a freshman. His roommate, Parker Welch of Jesup, has introduced him to hunting. There is passion for the sport, but the scouting report on his hunting expertise is not too favorable at this point.

He and Audrey went skeet shooting recently, and he was second best. Ever the competitor, Michael noted, "Just wait till we try it again."