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Southern University running back Devon Benn (9) cuts back to avoid the last lunging tackler, South Carolina defensive back Jason Baxter (26), to break his 27-yard first quarter touchdown run in the Jaguars' season opener against the Bulldogs at A.W. Mumford Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

The promise of Devon Benn was evident from the first carry of his Southern career in the first quarter of the season opener against South Carolina State.

He took the handoff from Austin Howard and allowed the blocks to develop in front of him. He anticipated the hole opening up and accelerated at the perfect time, getting into the second level of the South Carolina State defense.

Once there, he planted his foot in the turf and quickly changed direction, leaving a Bulldogs defender grasping at air. He completed his 27-yard touchdown run by racing between two converging defenders.

All of it was set up by his vision, which is what gets coach Dawson Odums excited about him. He recalled how Benn made that touchdown happen.

“The hole wasn’t there in the beginning,” Odums said. “But he set it up, stuck his cleat in the ground with a vertical cut and the next thing you know he was in the end zone.”

Through two weeks, Benn is leading Southern in total offense, with 131 yards on only 16 touches.

With the announcement Tuesday that starting running back Herb Edwards would miss Southern’s game against UT-San Antonio, Benn should get more opportunities with the ball in his hands.

Now, it’s about seeing if that promise can translate into results in his opportunity as a lead back.

“I think he’s got a chance to be very special,” Odums said. “I think you see that whenever you watch him run. … He’s very good, very talented. I’m eager to see how he’ll play this week.”

As a redshirt freshman, Benn is off limits for interviews with the media. But his coaches and teammates painted a glowing picture of him as a football player.

The words “explosive” and “electrifying” came up from his coaches and teammates, but they also appreciate his dedication to the less glamorous aspects of his position.

“Not only is he an excellent runner, he does an excellent job in protection,” said offensive coordinator Chennis Berry. “It means something to him.”

He’s also a capable receiver out of the backfield, evidenced by the fact that he’s Southern’s leading receiver through two weeks.

Benn has been a bright spot in an otherwise tough start to the season for the Southern offense. Though it has come against two tough defenses, the Jaguars have scored just 14 points and gained 437 yards in two games.

They’re tasked with another difficult test against a UTSA team that held Baylor to 10 points and 274 yards last week.

Southern at UTSA

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Alamodome, San Antonio

RADIO: 106.5-FM

Southern will also be without senior quarterback Austin Howard for the second straight week, which should make things even harder on Benn and the Jaguars rushing game if the Southern passing game has a similar day to the one it had in its shutout loss against Southern Miss.

“(Benn is) an elusive guy in space, we’ve just got to get more consistent in getting him in space,” Berry said. “Part of running the ball is you have to be effective in passing the ball, because that’ll soften up the defense a little bit.”

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.