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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Trooper: WR Benton will 'light the record books up'

AUBURN, Ala. — Auburn wide receiver DeAngelo Benton has yet to catch a pass this season, prompting many to wonder if all the hubbub about the freshman’s talent was overblown.

Wide receivers coach Trooper Taylor says don’t give up hope yet.

“I promise you he will light the record books up,” Taylor said. “You can write that down, before he gets out of here, because he has that type of ability.”

Of Auburn’s four freshman receivers, Benton, a former five-star recruit who is two years removed from high school, has done the least this year. He’s had a number of chances to get that elusive first catch but has been plagued by a series of drops, including one at LSU.

Taylor hasn’t seen the 6-foot-2, 192-pound receiver get down on himself.

“Not one bit of drop-off or change,” he said. “The big deal for him is the speed of the game coming back. His last game was two years ago in high school. Those things take a little time.

“What you don’t want to do is put him out there and him get overwhelmed and think he can’t play. The physical tools are there. Now we just have to get the mental side of it and the temperament part of it back.”

Taylor has been pleased with the freshman’s progress off the field, especially academically. He doesn’t know how long it will take for things to click on the field, but he is positive they will.
“The kid is talented,” Taylor said. “I think we’re going to be real excited we got him.”

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  • (Let the blog first go on the record as saying it is skeptical Benton will "light the record books up." Just wanted to get that out there. OK, proceed with your reading.)
  • Running back Onterio McCalebb is still on the mend with an ankle injury, meaning H-back Mario Fannin might have a larger role as a tailback this week as a complement to starter Ben Tate. Fannin, who has played a utility role all season, got six carries against LSU last week in a classic tailback role. He gained 56 yards. “We envision that role expanding,” Auburn coach Gene Chizik said. “We’ll see how exactly the game unfolds. But certainly he’s prepared to do that.”
  • Fannin emerged as a tailback at the end of last season, averaging 4.5 yards per carry in the Tigers’ final three games. But those handoffs have been few and far between this year. The junior has 19 rushes for 162 yards, although he’s been a strong receiving threat, with 24 catches for 255 yards.
  • McCalebb remains day-to-day with an ankle injury that dates back to the Ball State game. He has 48 rushing yards the last three games. “He’s nicked and bruised with that ankle a little bit,” Chizik said. “You know it’s those ankles when you’re a running back. It’s just a slow process.” That doesn't sound positive for his chances of being 100 percent this week.
  • Auburn’s season-long punt return nightmare continued last Saturday when Philip Pierre-Louis muffed a punt just before halftime. LSU recovered and kicked a field goal to lead 17-0. The Tigers have auditioned other returners this week, including Anthony Gulley, who returned punts earlier this year before getting dinged up, Quindarius Carr and Travante Stallworth. But that doesn’t mean Pierre-Louis won’t get another shot. After dropping the punt, he came back and had no problems the rest of the game. “The thing you did see is when I brought Philip back, he was able to catch the football and do exactly what he was told with guys in his face,” said Taylor, who coaches the returners. “That’s a tough job.”
  • Special teams coordinator Jay Boulware said catching the ball in traffic is an occupational hazard at punt returner, so he didn't have much sympathy for the drop (although he did say that he thought LSU got too close to PPL before he caught it). "They're going to be in his face every return," he said. "Every one's not going to be perfect, especially if the punter puts it up there 4.5 seconds and it's 40 yards. You're not going to be able to hold guys off for that long. You've just got to catch the football. If not, be a great actor and fall forward if they don't give you enough room. Because they really didn't, in my opinion, have enough room."
  • Boulware seemed pleased at Auburn's ability to keep the ball away from Trindon Holliday last week, a strategy that included pooch kickoffs and directional punting. "Did you hear Trindon Holliday's name called once on a return Saturday?" Boulware said. "The head coach said don't kick it to him, so we didn't. We didn't want them to beat us on the return game. Our game plan was simple: punt away from them and kick away from them. We didn't do a good job on kickoffs. We wanted to put it outside the numbers and ended up dropping inside the numbers with short hang time on both of them. We didn't execute either one of those kicks very well and obviously that hurt us. But the punter (Clinton Durst) did a great job. I kept hearing the fans [gasping sound] every time, thought he shanked it, but he was punting it out of bounds. He wasn't shanking it, he was punting over there. I thought he did a good job."
  • Offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn turned 44 on Wednesday, so coaches and players razzed him throughout practice. The coach barely noticed. “His mind is elsewhere. Always,” running backs coach Curtis Luper said. “There could be a birthday cake sitting on the table and he wouldn’t know.” A reporter suggested putting the cake on a playbook. “Yeah,” Luper said. “He’d move it.”
  • Chizik said DL Zach Clayton is "day-by-day" with an ankle injury. He played briefly at LSU but hobbled off the field early in the game after re-aggravating it.
  • Chizik seemed oblivious that the World Series started tonight. Asked if he was for the Yankees or the Phillies, he said, "Is there a World Series going on?"
  • Taylor said the wide receivers' problems haven't been an inability to get off of press coverage. "For my guys, I think we have to make plays when we get an opportunity to," he said. "When it’s close we’ve got to go make that play regardless."
  • He told his receivers to be aware of Ole Miss safety Kendrick Lewis. "He will bed check you in a heartbeat," Taylor said. "He covers some ground. I pointed it out to the wideouts. You better know where he is at all times because he can put you to sleep in a heartbeat."
  • Running backs coach Curtis Luper has been extremely impressed with Ole Miss' defense. He said it might be better than LSU's. "It's comparable to LSU, but I think they may be a little more athletic," he said.
  • Trooper thinks a fast start would help the offense gain confidence: "The thing we’ve got to stop doing is shooting ourselves in the foot. We’re a penalty magnet right now. We’ve got to stop putting ourselves behind the chains because when you watch defenses, as soon as you get off schedule, they pin their ears back and bring as many as they can. That speeds everything up for the quarterback, for everybody. Those are the things we have to get better at."
  • Luper knows Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt well. He was a running back at Oklahoma State from 1984-87 when Nutt was an assistant coach. "He always promised to hire me," Luper said. "'Aww, I'm going to hire you every chance I get. I'm going to hire you, Lupe. I'm going to hire you.' But it never worked out. Good friend of mine. Great man. He's the epitome of a player's coach." We reporters joked with Luper that he should mediate a mid-field hug between Nutt and Malzahn before the game.

1 comment:

Acid Reign said...

.....I'm probably in agreement on Benton. Has he hauled in a pass yet, this year? We used to hear the same praise about James Swinton.