WVU Linebacker Al-Rasheed Benton Primed For Even More Production
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Al-Rasheed Benton doesn’t believe in too much of a good thing.
The middle linebacker finished the last season with 80 tackles – second-best on the team – and one interception while rarely coming off the field and also playing special teams. It led coordinator Tony Gibson to believe Benton was overworked last season, something he’s looking to avoid this year.
Unsurprisingly, the unequivocally vocal leader disagrees.
“I don’t think I played enough,” Benton said when asked if he can match the snap count again. “I want to play 50 more plays a game if I can. I think one of the biggest things of me holding up was getting with (strength and conditioning director) Mike (Joseph) and (athletic trainer) Dave (Kerns) making sure I did my treatment, my rehab, and injury prevention things. That’s the biggest thing, on top of those little things and that’ll help you even more as the season goes on. Like I said before, if you need me to play 50 more plays than I did last year I’d do the same, just whatever the team needs.”
It’s a selfless sentiment. It’s also an argument Benton will lose. With the return of blue chip recruit Brendan Ferns, who missed all of last season after tearing an ACL in fall camp, Benton will be sharing that mike linebacker position. It should benefit both, keeping Benton fresher and allowing Ferns to master the position at his own pace, without the pressure of excessive playing time or being flipped to the strong or weakside slots.
“Good nutrition helps keep your body fat percentage down and those things help prevent soft tissue injuries, so that’s one of the things I’ve been working on,” Benton said. “Definitely nutrition has been helping me with my diet regimen. It is a big part in helping you stay on the field, and that’s a big part on why the team has been able to make some of the gains we had with strength and conditioning so far.”
Benton has taken to his leadership role naturally, to the point where he’s the player most consistently giving speeches, as he did at the close of WVU’s 100-play scrimmage on Friday. The warnings went out to stay focused on the fall practices and overall team goals, even at the expensive of personal ones. He’s also acted as a mentor for Ferns, who should elevate into the full time starting role in the middle next season.