Georgia redshirt sophomore receiver Michael Bennett plays each day with a chip on his shoulder.
The Alpharetta High School product garnered some Division I offers out of high school, but none met the standards that matched programs he grew up a fan of — Penn State and Michigan State. Barring an outstanding performance at a Mark Richt offseason camp, he may not have even earned one to play at Georgia.
Richt hosted the camp to assess secondary recruits and felt those in attendance were some of the better cover corners from around the Southeast. Bennett took the Bulldogs’ coach off guard when he “showed up and started whooping them.”
Richt said the camp was comparable to most he hosts, which divides the day’s activities in to separate segments. His said he believed that if Bennett continued to impress through the second half the way he did the first, then he would make an offer.
“He just showed great ability to run routes and had a toughness about him,” Richt said of Bennett. “He seemed to be in great condition, had great hands, very competitive nature, had good size. Of course, since that time, he’s really muscled up and has even gotten better at what he does.”
When quarterback Aaron Murray was told that Bennett’s lone Southeastern Conference offer came from Georgia, he was taken aback.
“I did not know that,” Murray said. “I’m happy we offered him, that’s for sure. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s a kid that a lot of people put under the radar. Ever since Day 1, the kid has come in here, worked his tail off and has produced.”
After his first 100-yard outing last weekend, Bennett will take the field on Saturday night as the leading receiver for the No. 5 team in the nation.
His statistics didn’t come without hard work though, which began in 2009 when he redshirted his freshman season to better his craft. Doing so allowed him to work under former Georgia receivers Kris Durham and A.J. Green, who went on to become a top-five NFL Draft pick.
Bennett says the wealth of knowledge he absorbed from the two was unmatched.
“They showed me how to be a great receiver in the SEC,” he said. “I knew we had great receivers, so I knew it was just my year to watch and really learn. I was able to get used to the speed, get used to the SEC players and everything. The game has slowed down a lot, and that goes with a lot of maturity.”
Durham, in particular, had quite an impact on Bennett, he said. The two still speak on a weekly basis, mostly wishing each other good luck. Durham wants Bennett to bring his alma mater a title, and Bennett hopes his mentor does the same for the Detroit Lions, his favorite NFL team.
Bennett enters Saturday night’s game against Vanderbilt with the lead in nearly every Georgia receiving category. The sophomore has hauled in 17 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns this season.
With Richt claiming that Georgia’s offense is as productive as it’s been since the Matthew Stafford era, he plans to employ the aerial attack often against Vanderbilt this weekend — a delight to Bennett’s ears.
“It’s real exciting,” Bennett said. “We’ve been getting a lot of four-receiver sets and throwing the ball downfield wide. It’s a receiver’s dream, really. I’m just excited about what we’re going to do this whole year.”