Southern running back Devon Benn has been slowly building his résumé since arriving in 2016. Even after a breakout season in 2018, he’s looking to add to it.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior who prepped at John Curtis is looking to become the complete running back the Jaguars need to fuel the running game with sights set on the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
“It’s a lot more than just running the ball,” said Benn, who finished sixth in the SWAC with 788 yards and three touchdowns on 156 carries. “You’ve got to block, be able to read the same stuff the line reads, catch the ball ... that’s a lot.
“My pass protection has improved the most, and knowing the whole offense. You have to know where you have to be and check releases. Little techniques like being inside out, shoot your hands from high to low, a lot of other stuff.”
The Jaguars offensive coaching staff has got to love where Benn is now. He finished 2018 on a roll with a strong second half of the season. In the last five games he rushed for 415 yards on 63 carries for 6.6 yards per carry.
Benn also showed his ability to contribute to the passing game with 14 catches for 99 yards. He’s looking for more, and with quarterback LaDarius Skelton putting in a full season, he should get the chance.
“I definitely want to catch the ball and help the offense more,” he said. “I didn’t catch the ball much in high school, but I caught some.”
Coach Dawson Odums is counting on it because if anything, Benn has shown a willingness to up his game. Odums has seen it on an annual basis.
“I expect him to be Devon Benn, be the same player he’s been,” Odums said. “We should see an improved Devon Benn. Every year he’s gotten better. He knows the protections, he knows the running and passing game. He’s one of my favorite players, because he normally does things the right thing the right way.
“He’s as good a person as he is a player. You pull for success. He’s worked on his top end speed. He may not be the blazer but what’s underneath that third rib no one can question, that’s heart and desire. He has that.”
Those qualities make Benn a prime candidate for leadership and he’s embraced his role. He’s the leader of a strong group that includes less experienced players such as Chris Chaney, Craig Nelson, Darbbeon Profit, Benjamin Harris and Travien Benjamin.
“There’s a lot of talent in that running back room,” senior center Jaylon Brinson said. “And Devon Benn is leading the way.”
Benn said he consciously makes an effort to help those he’s competing with, especially newcomers like Nelson, Benjamin and Jarod Sims.
“I’m one of those guys that will come to you, take you on the side and instead of yelling at you in front of everybody, I’ll love you up,” he said. I’m a coach on the side. I will let you know what you did wrong so you can correct it, but I’m not going to single you out in front of everybody.”