March 12, 2012

Coach: Benenoch excelled against some of the best

Caleb Benenoch's former high school coach, Kevin O'Keefe, was pleased to learn this week that Benenoch had finalized a verbal commitment to Michigan State.

Benenoch, who committed to MSU on Tuesday, was part of O'Keefe's final team at Katy (Texas) Seven Lakes High. O'Keefe stepped down from the post for health reasons after helping Seven Lakes to its first winning season in school history in 2011, which was Seven Lakes' fifth year of varsity football.

"Caleb is a great kid and a lot of fun to coach, that's what I liked about him," O'Keefe said. "He liked to practice and he liked to be there every day. He's a lot of fun in drills, and works hard and competes. It's the ideal. He played great.

"He is a big kid and he certainly is an imposing figure on the field. He is very athletic. He has great feet and hips for a kid that size."

Brand new Seven Lakes High made steady progress in the AAAAA level of high school football in the Houston area, which is generally perceived as one of the top levels of high school football in the entire country.

"He was matched up against some of the top kids around here and performed extremely well," O'Keefe said.

That included a match-up with Danielle Hunter, who signed with LSU in February.

"Against Danielle Hunter, Caleb played extremely well and neutralized an athlete of that caliber," O'Keefe said. "We see his potentially really being there, and he got better and better every week. He is a good student of the game and works hard at it and keeps improving."

Benenoch is only begin to scratch the surface of his potential. Benenoch has annually taken a step backward in conditioning in order to go to Africa each summer with his father.

"His dad is a missionary over there and each summer Caleb has gone over there, much to the chagrin of his coaches," O'Keefe said.

This has caused him to miss out on summer conditioning and preseason two-a-days.

"He spends the majority of the summer there in Africa and then returns and then we have got to get him back into shape for the fall," O'Keefe said. "This year I think he is committed to staying and working out this sumn mer.

Benenoch (6-6, 321) has some tightening up to do. But O'Keefe said Benenoch carries his weight well.

"He is a well-proportioned kid for a kid that big, but it was just in those younger years, that's when they need the development, that's when we would have liked to have had him in the summer," O'Keefe said. "We were losing the key time with him so I think it slowed down his progress. But if he stays in there this summer he will have a great senior year."

Michigan State began recruiting him last fall. Wide receivers coach Terry Samuel is MSU's area recruiter.

"I talked with them during the fall recruiting period and I saw that Caleb got real excited about Michigan State," O'Keefe said. "He really liked him. They were impressed with him.

"He got a lot of attention from Nebraska, but Michigan State created probably the most personal relationship with him and I think that appealed to him a great deal.

"I think he is a kid that is open to travel, obviously, because he has been around the world. Sitting at home was not something that was not high on his list so he he was open to looking at other place and I think he realizes Michigan State is big-time football and is going to give him a great opportunity.

Benenoch (pronounced Ben-in-ock) had a growing list of offers which included Kansas State, Ole Miss and West Virginia when he committed to Michigan State.

"I think he is going to be a kid that is really going to explode on the recruiting scene this spring when people come through," O'Keefe said. "There wasn't much film on him a year ago so people didn't come in and know he was there. This year they do, so he will get a lot of attention but I think he wanted to put that aside and get ready to play.

"Michigan State did a great job of recruiting and I think both parties are going to be real happy with it. I think it's a great thing for the young man and the school and hopefully he takes that commitment very seriously and honors it and begins a relationship with Michigan State that lasts the rest of his life."

O'Keefe said Benenoch compares favorably with Herbert Taylor, whom O'Keefe coached at Sugarland (Texas) Hightower before Taylor went on to TCU. Taylor played for the Green Bay Packers in 2011, which was his fourth year in the NFL.

"Herbert did not have the overall size as far as weight that Caleb has, but as far as athleticism, I'm hoping that Caleb would achieve that same type of athletic ability and I think he can," O'Keefe said.

Benenoch is making strong progress in the weight room.

"In the winter when we started up, he benched 375," O'Keefe said. "So he will be over 400 probably by the end of the spring, which is good."

Good figures for a young, long-armed player, especially.

"He is a very long-armed kid," O'Keefe said.

"You can watch him on film and he will stay engaged with opponents from snap to whistle and to see a big kid going down the field 20 or 30 yards and staying engaged on a block is special and it just shows his tenacity, and his getting it and understanding what finishing a play is all about. I was always impressed by that characteristic."

Benenoch is strong in the classroom.

"He's a solid, B-plus student, pushing to be an A-student," O'Keefe said.

Benenoch mostly played out of a two-point stance in Seven Lakes' pistol offense last year. Benenoch had no trouble bending and playing with a low pad level on running plays.

"He played tackle so he was in a two-point most of the time and for a big kid he did very well getting out of that stance," O'Keefe said. "He did a great job. His feet and hips are great."

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