Michael Bennett proving to be a big catch for UGA

Michael Bennett had career-high 110 receiving yards against Florida Atlantic, including a career-long 67-yard TD. (UGA photo/Jim Hipple)

Michael Bennett had career-high 110 receiving yards against Florida Atlantic, including a career-long 67-yard TD. (UGA photo/Jim Hipple)

ATHENS — When Georgia coach Mark Richt offered Alpharetta High wide receiver Michael Bennett a scholarship in the summer of 2009, Bennett resisted the urge to accept on the spot.

“I felt like that might seem a little desperate,” Bennett said with a laugh this week. “So I gave it a few days.”

Georgia was the first — and as it turned out the only — SEC school to offer Bennett a scholarship. Richt made the offer on the spot after watching Bennett, who was about to enter his senior year of high school at the time, catch passes against some of the Southeast’s top cornerback prospects during a camp on the UGA campus. The skills Richt saw that day are becoming apparent to all.

After redshirting as a UGA freshman in 2010 and showing considerable promise in 2011, Bennett has emerged as the Bulldogs’ most productive receiver in the early stages of this season. Through three games, he leads the team in catches (17) and receiving yards (265).

Two weeks ago, he had a career-high eight catches against Missouri. Last week, he had a career-high 110 receiving yards against Florida Atlantic, including a career-long 67-yard touchdown catch.

The recruiting services ranked the 6-foot-3 Bennett as a three-star prospect in high school. But when he attended the “Mark Richt Camp” in Athens in June 2009, a number of four- and five-star defensive backs were on the field with him.

“It was actually a camp where we felt we had gotten some of the better cover cornerbacks to come and participate, some kids from around the Southeast,” Richt recalled. “We were really anxious to see what those guys could do. And then Michael Bennett showed up and started whipping ’em.”

During a camp lunch break, as Richt remembers it, the Georgia coach mentioned to his staff that the kid from Alpharetta made an impression on him during the morning session. He told his assistants to keep an eye on Bennett in the afternoon session and to continue testing him by matching him up against the best defensive backs because “we might offer this kid.”

“Sure enough, the second half of the camp, he continued to do what he did the first half,” said Richt, who recalled being impressed by Bennett’s route-running, hands, toughness, competitiveness and size. “So at the end of the camp, we offered him.”

Bennett remembers every detail of that day, from the weather (“real hot”) to Richt’s brief hesitation before offering.

“Coach Richt came up to me and was, like, ‘I don’t know if we’re ready to offer you yet,’” Bennett said. “I was, like, ‘Here we go again.’ My dad and I were kind of disappointed.”

Richt stepped away to consult with an assistant coach.

“He came back 30 seconds later and was, like, ‘All right, we’re going to offer you,’” Bennett said. “I was just, like, ‘Oh my gosh, those are the best words ever.’”

A few days later, Bennett committed to Georgia. At that point, he also had offers from Big Ten schools Wisconsin and Indiana, among others, but “I kind of wanted to stay close to home.”

In the three-plus years since, Bennett “has muscled up” and “gotten even better at what he does,” Richt said. “He likes every aspect of the game. He blocks well. He catches balls in traffic. We’ve seen him go deep a couple of times. Last year, he had a couple of phenomenal catches — one against Florida on fourth down and one against Auburn early in the game [both for touchdowns]. He’s just been very reliable for us.” Oh, and he has “pretty good game speed,” Richt said.

All in all, not bad for a three-star recruit.

“I wasn’t recruited highly coming in, so I’ve always had a little chip on my shoulder,” Bennett said. “To go in and contribute like this has been a real goal of mine.”

Bennett is part of a deep group of wide receivers that has prompted Georgia to increasingly embrace four-receiver sets. Three games into the season, three different Bulldogs have posted 100-yard receiving games: Tavarres King against Buffalo (117 yards), Marlon Brown against Missouri (106) and Bennett against Florida Atlantic. Rantavious Wooten and Chris Conley also are threats at wide receiver, and the position should grow stronger with the plan to expand receiver/cornerback Malcolm Mitchell’s offensive role.

Bennett is beginning to shake the label of “possession receiver,” which implies a lack of breakaway speed.

“He definitely hates that label,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said.

Said King: “He’s going to be great before he leaves here.”

– Tim Tucker

COVERAGE LEADING UP TO  GEORGIA-VANDERBILT GAME:

164 comments Add your comment

NotAGTFanPHEW

September 21st, 2012
7:26 am

Great kid with a lot of heart. Wished all our football players gave to the team like this kid does.

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Smokewagon

September 21st, 2012
7:32 am

Great judgement by Richt and his staff to land this kid. It’s not always about the stars that a potential recruit has been labeled with. A great work ethic and good heart goes a long way. The coaching staff has also done a great job developing MB.

Jimmy

September 21st, 2012
7:36 am

UGA has a nice group of receivers. No superstars (Mitchell could be one if he played fulltime), so opposing defenses can’t key in on any receiver in particular. As long as Murray throws to the hot hand of the game we’ll be fine.

SCDawg

September 21st, 2012
7:38 am

Michael Bennett remains me a little bit of a Hines Ward WR. He can catchand run, but he loves to block you down the field.

JB

September 21st, 2012
7:42 am

Will be in the NFL. One of those guys that sneaks up on you. Not flashy, just runs a good route, gets opens, and catch’s the ball. Good kid seems like also.

JB

September 21st, 2012
7:43 am

Agree about Murray. If he’s on, Dawgs tough to stop….and with what appears to be a much improved running game, offense looks pretty good.

Dawg Walker

September 21st, 2012
7:49 am

Sometimes it’s not about how many “stars” you get labeled with during high school on recruiting but the fire in the heart when playing. Kids can really change and grow up over a couple years. Sometimes “hidden gems” can be overlooked or undeveloped – the walk on that plays with passion and practices hard all week, yet doesn’t get the press until the starter is injured.
GO DAWGS!

WaleskaDAWG

September 21st, 2012
7:51 am

GATA

September 21st, 2012
7:54 am

Be interesting to see how many 3-star guys really produce around the SEC, vs. all the 4-5 star “elites” who ask what the school can do for them, commit/decommit, play the suspense game and all the other ridiculous antics. I’ve gotten to the point of ignoring all the recruiting hype and pull for the guys who show up on the Dawgs sideline in September.

KeepDreaming

September 21st, 2012
8:01 am

Bennett is a DGD!!!!

BirdDawg

September 21st, 2012
8:05 am

Bennett has become one of my favorite players. He has really improved and you can also tell that he hits the weight room hard. Definitely a DGD! Go Dawgs!!

BIGDAWG38

September 21st, 2012
8:07 am

Way to go Michael!!! The Georgia fan base loves what you are doing!!! Hold on to that ball!!! GO DAWGS!!!

Mobile Dawg

September 21st, 2012
8:09 am

Anybody see Alabama State on ESPN U last night. Watched a little of the first half, on his first run IC was up in the defenders face running his mouth. What a difference without him.

Jimmy Crack

September 21st, 2012
8:21 am

Every football fan likes a WR who catches the ball in traffic, holds onto it when he gets whacked, gets up off the ground and then goes and catches another ball in traffic on the very next play. Bennett is an awesome kid and he reminds me a bit of Miles Austin.

Joey

September 21st, 2012
8:23 am

JB, Bennent reminds me of the Gators (and Bengals?) Chrs Collinsworth back in the day. A little more muscled up, but still lanky and tall. Great hands. Good blocker. Sneaky fast. Competitive.

Joey

September 21st, 2012
8:28 am

Mobile Dawg, if all that he has been through – suspensions, felony-trouble, demotion to the “minor leagues,” etc, didn’t bring out a little humbleness, it won’t ever happen.

He is “bad-assing” his way right out of $ millions.

Grantham's The Man!

September 21st, 2012
8:28 am

Richt and Bobo sure got it right with Bennett and Gurley!

Both were overlooked by all those” Better Coaches” Georgia has great skill players all over the Offense.

When Ga get’s all those Defensive players back, this team’s going to be scary good!

7576DAWG

September 21st, 2012
8:36 am

Bennett has always been one of my favorites but I also like Conley a lot. I wish we would throw to him more.

RxDawg

September 21st, 2012
8:36 am

Bennet may very well be my favorite receiver on the team. Actually, I like all our receivers. I can’t remember a time when I’ve felt so good about our WR’s as a group. But I’ve loved the way Bennet plays from his freshmen year. Effort + talent + knowing your assignments (blocking, route running) = one DGD at receiver.

Tech Sucks

September 21st, 2012
8:39 am

Awesome kid, glad to see him doing so well. We are so loaded at WR. Been a long time since we’ve been able to say that.

RxDawg

September 21st, 2012
8:40 am

” I’ve gotten to the point of ignoring all the recruiting hype and pull for the guys who show up on the Dawgs sideline in September.”

GATA, I couldn’t agree more. The soap opera letdowns that come with following recruiting closesly are just… well they’re just not fun. I keep up with it slightly now, but not like I used to. I find football is more enjoyable if I don’t dwell on the recruiting aspects of it so much. Plus, I’m really not fond of the guy they’ve got writing for the AJC recruiting blogs now either. So it’s a win win for me =D

SONNY

September 21st, 2012
8:43 am

THANK GOD IC IS GONE –TO THINK ALL WE WENT THRU FOR HIM RECRUITING AND MENTAL WISE–ANOTHER JASPER

dawgfan

September 21st, 2012
8:44 am

Oh, and he has “pretty good game speed,” Richt said.

That made me chuckle. Bennett rocks. I hope Marlon Brown has a big year too. He looked pretty awesome in the Missouri game. He’s earned it.

SONNY

September 21st, 2012
8:45 am

AND THATS ALL I WILL EVER SAY ABOUT HIM- FORWARD ON

Dave

September 21st, 2012
8:45 am

Bennett is usually as reliable as the sun. A drop here and there, but who doesn’t have those. Murray is now rated above Barkly on the Heisman Watch. Marshall, Boo and Gurly are lining ‘em up and knocking ‘em down. Defense starts off slow, but then drops the hammer. Take each game, one game at a time. Beat Vandy then on to Knoxville. UGA might not be Bama at this point, but by the end of the season, we just may be pretty dad gum good. I think SC and FL are our only tripping points until the SECCG. Once we get to Atlanta (if it happens), the score is 0-0 and we just pin our ears back. GO DAWGS!

mike addington

September 21st, 2012
8:47 am

He is a main cog in the DAWG machine. No doubt about that. In fact, when I think of the receiiver group, I think of him first. Reminds me of Durham. both have great hands.

DAWGRX

September 21st, 2012
8:50 am

It just tickles me to death with all of the Murray bashers going off on this blog, yet the experts just keep going on and on about how good he is. Just this morning, I heard one guy on ESPNU state that Murray is a dark horse for the Heisman. Not good? Ha….vomit your bashing somewhere else. You are showing just how little you know about football.

mike addington

September 21st, 2012
8:51 am

OH and by the by, “possession receiver” sounds like a great compliment to me because it implies that when you need a catch, you’re the man. And that recruiting statement by CMR sounds kinda cold to me. I hope it was delivered accompanied by a smile. If he came at me like that, I’d make him wait too. Glad Bennett’s on our side and stays the whole time.

sogadog

September 21st, 2012
8:53 am

It aint the dog in the fight, its the fight in the dog.

Augustabred

September 21st, 2012
9:01 am

I like Bennett a lot! Unselfish kid willing to do the work he needs to get the job done! Also still looking to see Scott-Wesley get into the action!

bubba4dawgs

September 21st, 2012
9:02 am

I love a success story like Bennett! It shows what hard work and dedication will do! He makes the team and whole DAWG Nation proud! So glad you’re a GA DAWG, Bennett! Looking forward to seeing you play on Sunday too! Meanwhile, help get us to a championship!! GO DAWGS!!

DawgFaceBlues

September 21st, 2012
9:05 am

MB is a beast. Tall, Rangey and Strong. 2012 Season may be the best chance UGA has a shot at it all. They cant afford any hiccups or letdowns. This is the Year! GO Silver Britches!

Tom, Resident Georgia Fan

September 21st, 2012
9:06 am

Just goes to show Mark Richt’s skill set is far deeper than many detractors would have you believe.

Old Boy

September 21st, 2012
9:06 am

I have been most impressed with his blocking. There are a lot of big receivers that can catch, but if you want a nice pro career as a second or third receiver, you better be able to block well. I hate to admit it, but that is one reason that there have been some receivers not named Calvin from the Institute who have found NFL success (Calvin is a freak who would have been good no matter where he went).

Frank Lane

September 21st, 2012
9:11 am

No replacement for attitude. This young man has it.

GA Sandlapper

September 21st, 2012
9:12 am

He is a great receiver and seems to be a great kid. UGA has a good one!

ARdawg

September 21st, 2012
9:25 am

I was impressed with MB last year. Most generally, if he is thrown a catchable ball, he catches it. He’ll catch a few that don’t look catchable. The Mizzou game was I think the first time I’ve seen him hit in the hands (twice) and didn’t come up with it. Great things will be coming from Michael Bennett

Here we Go

September 21st, 2012
9:27 am

I would love to sign players like MB each year. Drive and GATA on each play!!! DGD !!!

gt4ever

September 21st, 2012
9:29 am

Hell of a football player…..

James Stephenson

September 21st, 2012
9:31 am

My favorite line from watching the Mizzou blogs during the game, is anyone actually going to cover Bennett today haha. I love it. If not for the early dropsies, he would have had an ever bigger game.

joe jenkins

September 21st, 2012
9:43 am

Michael Bennett is a beast….he gets open because he has deceptive speed….we have so many good wr’s…our opposition are forced to pick there poison. With that said does anybody really think we could beat these top 25 foe’s 1 bosie st
2. Nortre dame
3. west virgina
4.fsu
5. mich st.
6. sooners
7.bama
8.lsu
Does anybody really think we could beat these teams….i don’t think so….not with defense and unproven o-line

jj

September 21st, 2012
9:43 am

Think a tall Wes Welker

McLovin

September 21st, 2012
9:46 am

I think of Bennett as a blend of Wes Welker, Steve Largent, Ed McCaffrey, Kris Durham, Brandon Stokley, Brian Finneran, and Eric Decker. There might even be a little Michael Greer mixed in as well. Someone above mentioned he reminds them of Hines Ward. I just don’t see that. Can’t quite put my finger on why, but I just don’t see it.

GT is a 4th rate High School Team

September 21st, 2012
9:49 am

And you folks say UGA cannot develop a player. Even Jarvis Jones liked to improve and said so that was why he stayed for another year, and now is a potential first pick in the NFL draft.

UGA Insider

September 21st, 2012
9:53 am

IC didn’t look good last night. He is bigger and stronger than everyone on the field but it’s obvious he doesn’t want to be there.

tcdawg

September 21st, 2012
9:53 am

Michael Bennett=DGD!!!!!!

Let’s GATA DAWGS!!!!

Contractor

September 21st, 2012
9:59 am

Bennett does have some great hands and finds ways to get open. Honestly, he’s the only sure handed go to receiver Georgia has that will convert more times than not. King, Brown, and Mitchell aren’t near as sure handed as Michael Bennett. This means BOBO, keep feeding him the ball and allow him to do more work in the passing game for you and the team!

Fair n Balanced

September 21st, 2012
10:02 am

This is a good story. GATA!

AltamahaDawg

September 21st, 2012
10:15 am

Not sure it’s really a matter of BOBO deciding to feed him the ball.