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Over the next two weeks, we’ll pose and answer a question a day about the upcoming football season. Have a topic you think needs to be addressed? E-mail us at email@example.com.
How will Middleton get the ball in Richard Benjamin’s hands?
Why do we ask? Because the Tigers are unproven at quarterback. Aaron Midthus, the 2010 starter, transferred to Tampa Bay Tech earlier this year, leaving King transfer Kenyatta Young — a left-hander — as the likely No. 1 entering training camp. A junior, Young possesses a nice frame (6-foot-2, 184 pounds) and sound technique, but he threw one pass as Greg Windham’s backup last season. Actually, Benjamin may have taken more snaps behind center last year than Young. One thing is for sure, Benjamin, who already has a bevy of major D-I offers, is a playmaker. Whether Benjamin is a receiver (27.79 yards a catch), return man (20.1 yards per punt return, 29.3 yards per kickoff return) or running the ball (two rushes, 25 yards), he leads to instant yardage.
What they’re saying
Benjamin (when asked where he’ll line up): “Right now, quarterback, running back, or zone read, and they just throw me the ball. I’m not too much worried about getting the ball …just how.”
First-year Middleton coach Alonzo Ashwood: “We’ll have a plan where he’s in a sort of Wildcat type of thing. That puts the ball in his hands instantly. We’ll put him in slot, put him out wide, put him in different positions to create mismatches. Sometimes you don’t have a play for him and you have someone else rise up. We’ll put him in as a decoy. …But we’ve got a quarterback now.”
Steinbrenner coach Floyd Graham on Benjamin: “You notice that speed. He has a tremendous amount of speed. I think we tried to double him. We started off trying to run a zone on him and moved somebody over the top to cover him. He has an unbelievable amount of speed.”
What we say
Eduardo A. Encina: Rarely do you find a talent that can stretch the field vertically like Benjamin. He might be the Tigers’ best playmaker since O.J. Murdock was out wide in the mid 2000s, but Middleton has always been rich in game-breaking talent — Murdock, A.J. Jones, Ty Jones. But the toughest part has been getting the ball in that talent’s hands in order to win games.
The key will be the progression at QB, because Middleton’s district (which includes Jesuit, Lakewood, Robinson and Spoto, among others) is no joke. With the talent Benjamin has, he will be asked to do a lot of things at the next level, so why not showcase it now? The kid averaged nearly 28 yards a catch last season. Give him the ball as often as possible and get your popcorn ready.
Joey Knight: I can envision a scenario where Benjamin starts out wide, then gravitates inside as the season unfolds. This area alone has produced bushels of Division I-A athletes who played quarterback in high school out of necessity (Hillsborough’s Charles Lovett, Nature Coast’s Ja’Juan Story, Jefferson’s Reche Caldwell, St. Petersburg Catholic’s Chris Davis).
Whether it becomes a necessity for Middleton is uncertain, but if the Tigers hope to contend in a very tough nine-team district, Benjamin must be the offense’s focal point every game.
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