February 13, 2009

Offers flooding in

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This is an exciting time in the life of Brent Benedict, a rising junior offensive lineman prepping at The Bolles School here in Jacksonville.

Already, the 6-foot-5, 285-pounder who projects as a tackle told UGASports in a sit-down interview at his school that he already has verbal offers from 25 different schools, including one from Georgia, where he has developed a relationship with Bulldog offensive line coach Stacy Searels.

"Everything's been great," said Benedict. "It (the recruiting process) has actually been something I've enjoyed a good bit. I'm glad all my hard work seems to be paying off and that I'm part of a program like Bolles that understands what that. The support I've received here has been outstanding to bring me to the point that I am."

Yes, life for Benedict is good, although in one respect it's been a nightmare.

Last March, older brother Heath Benedict, a projected mid-round pick in last April's NFL Draft, passed away of natural causes.

A former three-time all-conference player at Division II Newberry following a transfer after his freshman season from Tennessee, the elder Benedict had been working out in Jacksonville after playing in the Senior Bowl and taking part in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Obviously, the tragedy hit the family hard.

In fact, long-time Bolles coach Corky Rogers asked that questions about the death be deferred.

"(Heath) actually worked out here the day before he died," Rogers said. "Certainly, this is something the family will never be over and neither will Brent. It's certainly a tragedy."

In one sense, Rogers believes the recruiting process involving Brent has helped the family begin to heal.

"That's one thing that's helped the recruiting process for Brent because his brother went through the same thing," Rogers said. "It's something they've handled very well as far as the recruiting part. They probably understand it better than I do in that sense."

Name any school and there's a better than decent chance that Benedict has a verbal offer, which can't become an official offer until he plays his first game as junior with Bolles this fall.

Besides Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan State, Notre Dame and UCLA have all said they'd love to be able to sign the young man, who has already been selected to participate in the junior combine during the week of next year's U.S. Army All-American Game.

With no list of finalists, Benedict plans on visiting just as many of the school interested in his services as he can this summer when his family will load up the car for a drive to a family reunion in Pennsylvania.

Get the GPS ready.

Benedict said he and his family plan on hitting at least a dozen schools, a list that includes Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Alabama, South Carolina, Clemson, Wake Forest, Duke, Virginia Tech and perhaps Maryland, Rutgers and Notre Dame.

"We're just going to stop and see as many schools as we can," laughed Benedict. "It's something my dad always said from the beginning to see some of the schools that maybe I'm not too familiar with. We just want to see what's out there."

Benedict has been to Athens before.

Along with his family and former Bulldog team captain Gordon Terry (1976-1979), whose son is a teammate of Benedict at Bolles, the group watched Georgia's 45-42 loss to Georgia Tech.

"Even though they lost I enjoyed the trip a lot," said Benedict, who wants to major in Business Management. "He (Terry) showed me around a bit of the campus before we went to watch the game. I enjoyed it a lot. Georgia looks like a nice place."

Benedict laughed that Terry didn't try to sway him "too much" to consider signing with the Bulldogs.

"He wasn't too bad," Benedict chuckled. "I'm sure he'd like to see me go to Georgia, but he didn't push me too hard. It was just a nice visit."

Rogers is confident that Benedict will make the right choice whatever he decides.

"In Brent's case he is pretty mature for his age, he can probably handle the situation better than most," Miller said. "That being said, when Mark Richt comes to see him, Urban Meyer comes to see him, Charlie Weiss comes to see him or Nick Saban comes to see him, all these people coming one right after the other, it's hard on a young guy."

So far, Benedict believes he is handling all the attention quite well.

He's just a bit humbled by the fact that so much attention is being shown, since he actually played defensive line during The Bolles School's state championship run in 2008.

Rogers has a funny story about that.

"Early in the year somebody called to get some film but I asked 'What do you want, a home move or something?'" Rogers smiled. "We didn't have any of him on that side of the ball."

But make no mistake, the offensive line - left tackle to be specific - will be Benedict's home this fall and for the foreseeable future.

"The only reason I played defense because we had a senior offensive line, but it (offensive tackle) is something that I've played before," said Benedict. "Again, I'm lucky that I've got some good coaches here to help show me the way. I'm sure everything will work out fine."

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