CHARLOTTE, NC (CBSMiami) – If the Duke Blue Devils have any hopes of slowing down the Florida State Seminoles offensive juggernaut; the Dukies have to find a way to solve the tall task of slowing down FSU receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
The 6’5”, 234-pound Benjamin can line up against almost any defensive back in the country and cause an immediate mismatch in size and strength. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe admitted his team doesn’t have “anybody that can line up and match up physically” with Benjamin.
Duke plays Florida State this Saturday in the ACC Championship Game and hope they can at least avoid a repeat performance from Benjamin from last weekend. Benjamin tore up the Florida Gators last Saturday for 212 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The Florida game punctuated the end of Benjamin’s season. He has seven touchdown receptions in the last four games and 12 overall this year.
“Benjamin is probably one of the rarest athletes in college football, with his size and his speed,” Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell said. “He has great hands, great leaping ability. I think the best way to defend against somebody like that is to challenge them up front. What we’ve done all year is we’ve been physical with receivers, and we’re going to try and be physical with them, as well.
“I don’t know if we have to bracket him. We’re going to play football like we’ve been playing all year. We play our coverages, whether it’s zone or man, and we go up and try to challenge receivers, and we’ll do the same thing this weekend.”
The red zone is one of the biggest area of concern.
Benjamin caught touchdowns of 45 and 29 yards against the Gators, but he’s one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets near the end zone. Winston’s future remains uncertain with the ongoing sexual assault investigation, but he is expected to play Saturday.
The two constantly worked on the fade route during the summer to exploit smaller defenders. One of the most impressive plays of the season came on in incomplete pass in which Benjamin was positioned along the back of the end zone and caught the ball higher than the field goal crossbar, but landed out of bounds.
“I know it’s unfair at the end of the day because a lot of cornerbacks are like 5-11 (or slightly taller),” Benjamin said “I’m going to get it at the highest point. It doesn’t really matter where he’s at.
“I’m going to get the ball at the end of the day.”
Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner said it takes help to defend Benjamin. The first-team All-ACC cornerback explained that defenders have to play to their help in coverage and be technically sound.
The scary part is that Benjamin has just scratched the surface of his ability. He’s a redshirt sophomore and only played three years of high school football. Assuming Benjamin sticks around for his junior season, he’ll team up with quarterback Jameis Winston to form one of the best qb-wr duos in college football.
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