Benton transforms body, zooms into linebacking mix

Linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton looks lean and productive this preseason at 228 pounds (left), compared to his heavier self in 2013 (right).


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Thursday’s 11-on-11 tempo drill presented a curious moment when redshirt freshman Al-Rasheed Benton scrimmaged at first-team Mike linebacker over returning junior Nick Kwiatkoski.

No, West Virginia’s top tackler wasn’t demoted. Gibson said Saturday coaches don’t want “anyone getting comfortable” and have begun tinkering with lineups.

“We want to keep guys on their heels all the time to make sure they execute,” he said. “You’re job is not secure. Just because we put you on top of the depth chart Day 1, it could all change on Day 2.”

Benton’s emergence, however, shows how far the Newark, N.J., product has climbed after looking a bit doughy when he arrived from high school last year.

“He’s a great football player, and we thought that when we recruited him,” Gibson said. “He came in a little overweight and out-of-shape, so we didn’t use him, and I’m glad we didn’t. He redshirted and got his body different.

“He’s really coming on. He’s had about two or three practices in a row where he looks really good.”

While the cornerbacks tandem of Daryl Worley and Icky Banks seems entrenched, position coach Brian Mitchell said there’s a plan to rotate West Virginia’s backups into game action.

“There’s six guys who could go out there and be productive,” he said. “We’re going 90 to 95 plays a game because of tempo. We’re going to need fresh bodies, especially for the long run, when you’re playing 12 games.

“The body wasn’t designed to go 95 to 100 plays a game. Maybe 60 plays back in the good old days, but now we’re asking more of these kids.”

That means sophomore Nana Kyeremeh and senior Travis Bell—second-unit players with starting experience—are primed to contribute, as is Ricky Rumph, who’s back with the corners after spending the spring at safety.


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