November 10, 2011

Bennett not backing down

Although just a redshirt freshman, wide receiver Michael Bennett has already shown the penchant for making tough, difficult catches for 14th-ranked Georgia.

But the way fellow wideout Tavarres King tells it, that's not the only "tough" aspect of Bennett's game.

Apparently, he's pretty determined on the practice field it as well and not afraid to back down when challenged, even by one of his own teammates.

"He and Shawn Williams used to go at it every day but Michael showed grit. He showed that he had a lot of grit and a lot of heart. He was not going to back down from anybody and I found that very awesome."

Junior Marlon Brown said he and teammates used to get a kick out of watching the back and forth between the two.

"Every day in the spring Shawn and Mike would go at it, fights, bickering here and there," Brown recalled. "After practice Mike would get on Shawn so bad and Shawn at Mike … we'd be going off the field and Shawn would still be screaming at Mike. I was like 'Man, practice is over, worry about it tomorrow.'"

King said there's no doubt the hard-nosed safety helped raise Bennett's game.

"Shawn's a guy, a rah-rah guy; he's going to motivate you. He's going to get in your face and things of that sort," King said. "Maybe it started out as him trying to punk Michael but Michael is extremely tough, he's got a strong mind and it didn't happen. I think he drove him with that with all the incidents last year that he and Shawn had."

Playing with a hard-nosed attitude is nothing new for Bennett, whose incredible 20-yard grab on fourth down for a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 24-20 win over Florida still draws raves from teammates.

But according to Bennett, making difficult catches is nothing new. He's not being cocky. He's simply playing the way he was taught a long time ago.

"In high school I made some tough catches as well; it's just something you have to do as a receiver," Bennett said. "You've got to go up and get the ball at the highest point, fight for it with the defender and then come down with the catch. That's all I've ever tried to do."

Bennett's numbers are starting to speak for themselves.

Coming into Saturday's huge game against 24th-ranked Auburn (6-3, 4-2), Bennett is the Bulldogs' fourth-leading receiver with 23 catches for 237 yards and three scores, including a career-high seven grabs for 89 yards in Georgia's 33-28 win at Vanderbilt.

"Before every game, every game that I go into, I feel more and more confident," Bennett said. "I feel like no one can stop me and that's a good feeling to have when you're on the football field, because when you have confidence, it's going to be a long day for the defenders."

Being able to step up and make plays in big games like the win over Florida pays dividends of a different sort.

"That really helps you out, too," Bennett said. "I've always tried to do very well in these big games because that's where you make a name for yourself, plays against these big teams is just going to help my confidence more and more."

Former teammate Kris Durham is not surprise with what he's seen.

Currently a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks, Durham said Bennett showed plenty of signs last year that he would be an important contributor at wideout for the Bulldogs this fall.

"Not one bit," Durham said. "The plays he's making now are the same ones he was making in practice last year so I've definitely seen him do it before and now he's able to showcase it."

Still, Bennett concedes he's come a long way in just over a year's time.

"Oh, no question," he said. "When I got here I thought I knew how to run routes but I was sooooo wrong. Coach (Tony) Ball showed me that real quick."

But as King mentioned earlier, Bennett's not afraid of a challenge.

"I'm a lot better than when I first got here," Bennett said. "But I can get a lot better. I still have a long way to go."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]