March 24, 2011

Bennett's time at hand

Michael Bennett broke into a wide smile. Yes, perceptions can be a funny thing, especially when you're the wide receiver teammates call "White Lightning."

"I already know what you're going to say," the redshirt freshman laughed. "Being recruited, it was unbelievable. You go to those camps and nobody really respects you. But as soon as you make a couple of catches, people start respecting you."

Bennett hasn't really had that problem since stepping on the field with the Bulldogs last year.

Although his time was spent predominately as a member of the scout team, Bennett was apparently good enough to open some eyes.

When A.J. Green and Tavarres King were recently asked what of Georgia's young receivers have been the most impressive, Bennett's was the first name mentioned.

"It's really flattering, to impress a guy like that," Bennett said of Green. "Watching him in Pro Day, how he runs his routes - it really means a lot to hear him say that, hopefully I can back it up."

Bennett joked that he still gets his share of ribbing from time to time.

"When I step on the field, 'Ah, it's the White Boy, another (Kris) Durham,'" Bennett smiled. "I'm like why do I have to be the White Boy? Can't you compare me to somebody else? But it's all good."

Quarterback Aaron Murray says Bennett can be "pretty good," too.

Having worked with the Alpharetta native now for just over a year, Murray believes Bennett can be a reliable part of the Bulldogs' receiving corps.

"He runs great routes. He's really done a tremendous job of getting open and doing what Coach (Tony) Ball tells him to do," Murray said. "He's really a student of the game. He really listens to all the little tips that Coach Ball gives him. You can see it on the field, he's getting open and making plays, plus he has some of the best hands on the team, I think. You throw it out there and he's going to make the plays. When he gets his shot, I think he's going to surprise a lot of people."

Bennett hopes his time is now.

With Green and Durham having moved on, Bennett is one of a handful of young receivers looking to use the spring as their springboard to playing time in the fall.

"I'm going to be ready for that. I've been working hard in the weight room, putting in the extra time," Bennett said. "It's up to me to step up for the occasion."

Bennett said he's already put in the time in the weight room to give himself the best chance he can. He's recently added 10 pounds of muscle, pushing his weight to 210 pounds.

Credit the winter workout program installed by strength and conditioning coach Joe Tereshinski for that.

Bennett said he's never been through anything like it in his life.

"No, no, absolutely not. The way he runs us, it's two hours of hell to tell you the truth. It's what we needed," Bennett said. "The lifting is high-tempo; you're getting cardio while you're lifting because you're running from place to place."

While Bennett believes the hard work in the weight-room will be worth-while, he knows what he does on the practice field during the rest of spring drills will likely determine his playing time come fall.

Impressing Ball - a man who doesn't impress easy - is now Bennett's primary focus.

"The next few weeks and that spring game (April 16), it's going to be important that I show Coach Ball what I can do," Bennett said. "He's a perfectionist, I'll just say that. He doesn't really dish out compliments, but that's fine."

Bennett laughed again when asked if Ball ever offered a kind word.

"He smiled at me one time - that felt pretty good," Bennett said. "Hopefully, I can get him to do that a few more times."

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