Benton Outlines Needed Habits For WVU Defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Al-Rasheed Benton was one of many West Virginia players that played well in the team’s 56-20 blowout victory against East Carolina. The senior led the defense with eight tackles along with one tackle for a loss and one pass defended.
Despite the tremendous performance, the season is still young and West Virginia has much left to desire defensively.
“I think there’s a lot of room for improvement,” Benton said. “These two weeks we’ve been getting some guys in and seeing what they can really do with real game reps as opposed to practice reps. I think we’re at the point now where we’re figuring out what kind of guys we can play with. We’re seeing some good things out of a lot of the young guys, some of them we didn’t expect they would be able to play with us. That’s where we’re at right now.”
Benton continues to be one of the most utilized players on defensive coordinator Tony Gibson’s defense, currently leading the team in tackles with 16. He also co-leads the team in tackles for a loss (two) with cornerback Hakeem Bailey.
“Anytime you start getting in the game action as opposed to practice there’s a little rust you want to knock off and get back into the groove of things,” Benton said. “I’m getting to the point now where I’m making better decisions, as opposed to last year I’m able to help guys out a lot more. I’m a lot smarter and a lot more experienced, especially with a lot of the young guys we have, so I have the ability to help those guys a lot more this year.”
With the season starting, Benton, as a senior and a player constantly on the field, plays a crucial role in the defense as a leader for the other defensive players on the field and helping the younger players develop on and off the field.
“It’s easier to get across to the young guys because they haven’t been playing,” Benton said. “Some of the older guys have been doing things their way for a certain amount of time so it’s hard to get them out of some of those habits as opposed to teaching new habits. Young guys are really buying into the system and understand what coach (Gibson) wants from them and it’s been working for us well so far.”
West Virginia’s game last Saturday against East Carolina was the first of a three game stretch against opponents where West Virginia is the heavy favorite to win. This Saturday’s game is against Delaware State at home. The Hornets are an 0-2 team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and ESPN ‘s Football Power Index gives West Virginia a 99.9% chance to win.
The week after Delaware State, West Virginia travels to face the Kansas Jayhawks in their first Big 12 Conference game. As of the end of week 2, Kansas ranks 15th in the nation in passing yards, as quarterback Peyton Bender holds passing stats of 687 yards on 55-99 passes, throwing four touchdowns and four interceptions. However, ESPN’s Football Power Index favors West Virginia 86.7% to 13.3%. Despite the lesser strength of upcoming opponents, Benton doesn’t want to take any one opponent less seriously.
“It doesn’t matter who you play.” Benton said. “You gotta show up, you gotta dominate, you gotta execute, you gotta communicate every week, it doesn’t matter the opponent. Those are the things you take these weeks and get into those habits, create those good habits and keep those going throughout the year.”