Demetrius Bentley remembers how the Southern coaching staff recruited him.
He remembers the sales pitch.
He’d be a linebacker, they said. Maybe a fullback, if the team needed him there.
Bentley was sold. He made the 17-hour drive from Akron, Ohio, to play college football in Baton Rouge. And he quickly learned that his long, winding journey had only just begun.
Since he stumbled onto The Bluff in 2008, Bentley has moved from linebacker to fullback, then back to linebacker. For a time, he practiced at both positions.
Then, last season, new coach Stump Mitchell and his staff moved the 245-pound Bentley to defensive end.
Now, as a senior, Bentley is back where he started. With one season left in his career, one last chance to be an impact player, he’s a linebacker again.
“I really wouldn’t change anything,” he said. “I think every transition I made, it helped me as a player. Fullback helped me get used to the toughness, the hard hitting. It was good for me.”
Now, Bentley’s fight is Southern’s fight.
In nine days, the Jaguars open their season at Tennessee State - and with scholarship cuts, limited practice time and a postseason ban, Southern will need all of its players to do a little more than they’ve done before.
That’s where people like Bentley fit in.
On one hand, he’s been everything football coaches claim to want in a player: He’s unafraid of contact, He’s smart, and most of the time, he does what the coaches ask.
On the other hand, he has never quite found a starring role.
He was big enough to play defensive end, but not monstrous - and usually, there were too many veterans in front of him.
He was fast enough to play linebacker, but not properly prepared to play in space.
Two years ago, he had 18 tackles and half a sack.
One year ago, he had nine tackles and half a sack.
Now, as a senior, Bentley is part of a team that needs to be more effective than it was last season.
“Before, we just ran the scheme. We didn’t really know what was going on; we just did what we were told,” Bentley said. “But now, we understand why we’re doing those things.”
As the fourth linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, Bentley could do almost anything. He might drop into coverage, or he might put his hand in the dirt and take aim at the quarterback.
After three seasons, he’s practiced enough of both.
“There will be times in ballgames where we need to just get speed on the field. Then, he’ll be an open-side rusher,” defensive coordinator O’Neill Gilbert said. “There’ll be times where he’ll stack right on that nose guard and rush that B-gap.
“So he’s going to move around a lot for us.”
Demetrius Bentley is used to that.