Aug 14, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Kelvin Benjamin is a changed man -- both physically and mentally.
Benjamin, Florida State's behemoth of a wide receiver at 6-foot-5 and well over 220 pounds, knew something had to change after a redshirt freshman season in which he caught 30 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns. He was productive in his first year of playing, sure, but a lingering theme seemed to follow Benjamin after each of FSU's 14 games.
This guy is a matchup nightmare; what defensive back could cover him one-on-one? Why is he not more of an impact player?
To live up to the lofty hype that had surrounded him since he made child's play of high school football before redshirting his first year in Tallahassee and seeing his legend grow to virtually unreachable heights, Benjamin knew only he could control what the next step in his career would look like.
Superstar or would-be star? It was his choice. To go from contributor to potential dominator, the Belle Glade, Fla. native he had to first change his body.
"The biggest thing was I really wanted to lose more weight and get in way better shape than I was in," Benjamin said. "That was a big thing. That's why I stayed over the whole summer and worked out twice a day and try to get in the best shape I could get in to."
His diligent off-season of working out more and better managing his diet worked.
After playing last season at 248 pounds and between 15-16 percent body fat, Benjamin now says he is in the best shape of his life at 234 pounds and eight percent body fat.
Physically, he looks like it, too. He's still boasts that massive physical presence that allows him to tower over defensive backs and linebackers alike, but he is now faster, doesn't get winded as easily and boasts a more well-rounded overall game because of his improved conditioning.
"I feel like I'm jumping higher and coming out of my breaks faster," Benjamin said. "I feel much better and it takes the stress off my knees."
Ironically, Benjamin did more this off-season to better prepare himself for a redshirt sophomore campaign in which head coach Jimbo Fisher hopes to see him do less.
He figures to play more as a starter and should be featured more in the offense this year than he was a year ago, so playing time isn't what Fisher is talking about. Instead, FSU's head coach wants his potential star receiver to not try too hard to be a hero each time he touches the football.
"You're waiting to see a touchdown every two seconds," Fisher said. "I think it bothered him. I think he tried too hard to always and he didn't realize that if you caught a slant or a drag, hey that's a good thing."
But with hype comes goals that aren't quite as easy to achieve. Benjamin tried too hard to a fault because he talked last pre-season about catching 1,000 yards and becoming an All-American. But as the season wore on and the likelihood of those tasks ever being accomplished grew further and further out of reach, Benjamin grew more and more frustrated and his production slipped.
This pre-season, Benjamin isn't ready to make the same proclamation because he now truly understands just how difficult those goals are to achieve (FSU hasn't had a 1,000 yards receiver since Anquan Boldin in 2002). Instead, he plans on letting the production and accolades come to him rather than going on a frantic quest in search of them.
"Now I'm just going to let it take care of itself," Benjamin said. "I mean, you can say it but now I'm just going to go out there 100 percent every blocking play and every receiving play. Even for me to just run off a route for short and catch a ball that's enough."
Benjamin's mental transformation has also included a more diligent relationship with his playbook that has resulted in a more thorough understanding of what's being asked of him on each play.
Kelvin Benjamin is a changed man -- and if all goes to plan, the rest of college football will soon take notice.
-It's a good thing that Benjamin may be on the verge of a huge year; FSU needs him -- badly. Fisher announced after Wednesday's scrimmage that>Jarred Haggins "is probably done for the year" with a stress fracture in his knee. For those scoring at home, that's now three senior wide receivers that FSU is missing entering the 2013 season. Willie Haulstead failed to qualify and Greg Dent is suspended indefinitely pending a legal matter.
Haggins is a true senior so he is eligible for a redshirt this season.
Because Fisher doesn't want to risk injury to starters Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw, all three wore non-contact jerseys during the scrimmage. As he has done several times this fall, Fisher was very complimentary of the job that freshmen pass catchers Isaiah Jones, Levonte Whitfield and Jesus Wilson have done. Without the three previously mentioned seniors, all three rookies will be expected to play a lot this season.
-In other injury news, sophomore cornerback P.J. Williams missed the scrimmage with a thigh bruise. In his place, Ronald Darby, who Fisher said has come on nicely of late after working his way back into shape following off-season surgery, took his place with the first team.