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Loran Smith: WR Bennett’s work ethic sets him apart

Michael Bennett, Georgia’s passion-imbued split end, has the California look — a golden boy, with sure hands and a peaceful demeanor, but an accelerated ambition to excel. He has the ingredients to become one of the Bulldogs’ finest possession receivers in years, a self-described “slow white boy” who has the moxie for making big plays.

His coaches say he has a bit of nastiness as a competitor, which serves him well when it comes to besting the defenders who confront him on Saturday. Football is not a game for the timid, seasoned observers have long said, or the faint of heart. Real men enjoy competition. The reserved Bennett, the son of parents who work for Ministry Ventures in Alpharetta, was born in State College, Pa., and grew up in metro Atlanta. Georgia has always been on his mind.

Early Sunday morning as the coaches graded tape of the Florida Atlantic game, Clark Williams, a member of the video staff, plugged in a tape of Saturday’s 56-20 thumping of Florida Atlantic and brought up Bennett’s 67-yard touchdown catch, a thing of fluid beauty. At the line of scrimmage, Bennett went into a stutter step, which brought about separation from a defensive back who had lined up head-on Michael. The play was a crossing route, and when the safety enjoined the coverage, Michael gave him a deft head fake to the inside, breaking swiftly past the safety who lost his jock strap with the fake. Michael then outran the defensive back who had recovered and was giving chase. Michael instinctively cut to the inside, bending away from the pursuit, out of reach of all defenders, to score.

When the day was done, Michael had caught four balls for 110 yards and a touchdown — the first time he had ever tallied a hundred or more yards in a game. This should be among a number of productive firsts for a young man who looks on college as an educational journey. He has the notion that he came to college for a degree and that school work is vitally important. He finds time for pick-up basketball, FCA and a variety of charities. Bible study ranks high with him, and so does his favorite coed, Audrey Trammell of Fayetteville.

When his college days are over, you can expect him to take on a coaching role, giving young kids a helping hand. He is more likely to be in church on Sunday than in a National Football League locker room, but if a team offers him a contract, don’t count him out. He wasn’t a top prospect coming out of Alpharetta High School. All he wanted was an opportunity, however, so to validate himself he came to the Georgia summer football camp to demonstrate to the Bulldog staff that an investment in his future would be worthwhile.

“He believed in himself and he wasn’t afraid to come to camp and compete,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo says.

Receivers coach Tony Ball is enamored with Bennett’s work ethic and his ball skills.

“The thing he has done to improve is being able to transition in and out of his breaks, which leads to separation. When he is full speed, he can immediately change directions,” Ball notes. “He had a great off-season, and in preseason you could tell that he had worked all summer on the little things that would make him a better and more effective receiver.”

Coaches love kids like Michael. He registers high on their coachspeak meter. Ball and Bobo find his attitude refreshing. Coaches love those kids who win their heart, those who possess the intangibles and exhibit an exemplary attitude.

That is why they talk about him in favorable terms:

“Michael has excellent habits. He plays through nagging injuries. He has passion for the game. He is confident and has a good rapport with Aaron Murray. His stats reflect production. He plays like he practices. He knows his assignments. He doesn’t back down on the field. He may be quiet and unassuming, but he will strike you. He is dedicated to running his routes crisply and sharply. He can make plays, and he can make ‘em when it counts.”

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