Friday September 30, 2005
Technique - The South's Liveliest College NewspaperSports

Backup Bennett steps up when called upon

By Scott Meuleners / Student Publications

Redshirt freshman Taylor Bennett started against Connecticut and then saw action at the end of last week's Virginia Tech game.

By William Bretherton Contributing Writer

Ever since Taylor Bennett made the short-notice start against Connecticut in week three, he has become a common name on campus. Previous to Bennett's start, Reggie Ball had started 27 consecutive games and was becoming the standard name as Jacket quarterback.

After the Jackets beat the Huskies 28-13, fans were shown that Ball isn't the only one who can lead the offense.

The St. Louis native spent most of his high school career as backup to Josh Mathews, a three-year starter at Lafayette High School.

While this may have discouraged many of the top programs in the country from giving Bennett scholarship offers, it did not keep him from looking at them. During the summer of his junior year, he visited many Nike summer camps, including visits to Stanford and Texas A&M.

"My Mom and I would travel to different schools to visit college campuses and get my name out there," Bennett said.

Before looking at Tech Bennett was first given a scholarship offer by Boise State. Other offers came from Indiana, Rice, Baylor and Illinois, which was his mom's alma mater.

Bennett wanted to go to a top-tier school, though. So he and his mother continued to send out game tapes on Friday nights after his games.

"When I came to Atlanta, I really loved Tech and the tradition and prestige surrounding the program," Bennett said.

Bennett graduated from high school in December 2003, which gave him an early start to life on campus. After graduation he immediately started working out with the Jackets as they were preparing to make the trip to Boise, Idaho for the Humanitarian Bowl. He was able to travel with the team to Boise and stand on the sidelines to watch his future teammates.

Bennett noticed early on, like most new Tech students, that there was huge jump between high school and college, both on and off of the football field.

His studies required more self-discipline as classes got harder, and on the field, the speed of the game became faster. In addition Bennett had to learn new blitz schemes and coverage packages that opposing defenses would throw at him.

Until this season, Bennett saw no game action, which is why he is a red-shirt freshman this year. Had Ball remained healthy, Bennett may not have gotten his first start until two seasons from now, but that all changed against Connecticut on Sept. 17, just five days after his 20th birthday.

Bennett found out that he was going to start just two hours before the game. Naturally, his family didn't know either. As the team made the pre-game walk down Yellow Jacket Alley en route to the locker room, Bennett went to his mother and whispered the good news to her.

"I don't think I was that nervous. I was less nervous than I thought I would be. I thought I would be a whack-job, but I treated it as a back-up thing. If he goes down in the game, I have to be ready to come in as the back-up. It's what they tell us to do everyday. That's what we do," Bennett said.

Bennett's first play of his college career was a 42-yard touchdown completion to fellow second-year Calvin Johnson.

"It was a check. The first play was a check. If the pass was there he's supposed to take the pass and if the run was there he's supposed to call the run. They gave him the pass, and he took it," said Head Coach Chan Gailey after the game.

Bennett finished the game completing 11 of 30 passes with 142 yards and no interceptions. Bennett also saw limited action at the end of the Virginia Tech game.

After college Bennett would like to continue playing football for as long as possible. When his football days are over, he would like to pursue a career in the public sector as a CIA agent or work for another government intelligence agency. He also has always wanted to travel to Russia as well.