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2015 NFL DRAFT
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Earl Bennett

Height: 6-0 | Weight: 209 | College: Vanderbilt
 
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Overview

Ever since his arrival on campus, the Commodores felt Earl Bennett was the most dangerous weapon in the Southeastern Conference. By earning All-SEC honors in each of his three college seasons, Bennett became just the second player in school history to accomplish the feat, joining linebacker Jamie Winborn (1998-2000).

Bennett is ready to test his big-play ability in the National Football League ranks.

In three seasons in Nashville, Bennett shattered most of the school's single-game, season and career receiving records. His 236 receptions also established a new all-time conference record. He became the sixth player in school annals to lead the team in receptions in three-straight years, joining Bucky Curtis (1948-50), Jeff Starling (1960-62), Curt Chesley (1968-71), Martin Cox (1976-78) and Dan Stricker (2000-02).

At West End High School, Bennett served as team captain, starting at wide receiver, running back and cornerback for an 8-3 squad that advanced to the Class 5A state playoffs as a senior. He was named the City of Birmingham's Most Valuable Football Player and Most Outstanding Athlete and selected first-team 5A All-State by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.

Bennett also received the Birmingham City Player of the Year Award and All-Birmingham Metro recognition. He rushed for 829 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 45 passes for 729 yards during his final year. He also intercepted 10 passes and totaled 52 tackles at cornerback. He also lettered in basketball, averaging 11.2 points per game as the squad's point guard. He excelled in the classroom, graduating with a 3.82 grade point average.

Bennett made an immediate impact at Vanderbilt. Even though he did not start until the fourth game of 2005, he set the school and Southeastern Conference freshman season-record with 79 receptions, good for 876 yards. His average of 7.18 catches per game ranked ninth in the nation, and he added 76 yards on 12 punt returns while averaging 21.3 yards on 19 kickoff returns.

His freshman postseason was a busy one, as Bennett garnered Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC honors from The Sporting News, and was the recipient of the squad's Most Valuable Receiver Award. He added first-team All-SEC (all classes) accolades from the league's coaches and received second-team mention from the Associated Press.

For the second straight season, Bennett was named first team All-SEC by the league's coaches and received the team's Most Valuable Receiver Award. He was tied for eighth nationally with a career-high 82 receptions, the second-best season total in school annals. He gained 1,146 yards, ranking ninth in the nation with an average of 95.5 yards per game. He completed two pass attempts for 45 yards and a score, finishing with 1,190 all-purpose yards.

As a junior, Bennett received All-SEC first-team notice for the third time. He ranked second in the conference with 75 receptions for 830 yards (11.1-yard average) and five touchdowns while playing flanker and slot receiver. He also rushed 10 times for 22 yards.

Bennett declared for the 2008 NFL Draft, deciding not to return to Vanderbilt for his senior season.

In 35 games at Vanderbilt, Bennett started his final 32 contests. He totaled 2,852 yards on an SEC all-time record 236 catches (12.1-yard average) with 20 touchdowns. He carried 20 times for 44 yards (2.2 avg), returned 25 punts for 181 yards (7.2 avg) and completed 2-of-4 passes for 45 yards and a score. He added six tackles (three solo) and piled up 405 yards on 19 kickoff returns (21.3 avg). He scored 120 points and amassed 3,482 all-purpose yards, an average of 99.49 yards per game.

Analysis

Positives: Well-proportioned with long arms, thick chest, broad shoulders and thick muscle definition in his legs and calves … Split high with a firm midsection and a tight waist … Lacks explosiveness, but runs with a long stride and has the change-of-direction agility, along with good route stem to become a deep threat … Shows the ability to be very physical with defensive backs, using his hands well to push off to create space … Builds his acceleration quickly and has the linear speed to elude after the catch … Shows good balance and body control in his running stride, keeping his head on a swivel to look the ball in over his outside shoulder … Tough competitor who has an aggressive nature when asked to cut block, taking good angles to neutralize second-level defenders … Tough receiver in a crowd, showing the loose hips and shake to make defenders miss and the frame to adjust to the ball in flight … Plays with excellent awareness and field vision, coming back for the ball with good urgency when the quarterback is pressured … Positions his body to go up and haul down the pass in traffic … Demonstrates excellent ball concentration, coming out of his cuts and executing fluid stutter-step moves in his patterns … Shows good acceleration off the line and the hand punch to beat the press to get a clean release into the second level … Can threaten the deep part of the zone and can leverage, plant and cut when running his patterns … Will sneak up on the defender when trying to get open, using his balance and low pad level to separate … Shows good short-to-intermediate area quickness in and out of his breaks and can power through the jam with strong hand swipes … Has the ability to make the acrobatic catches, as he times his leaps well and uses his long arms to reach around the defender to secure the ball at its high point … Stays low in and out of his cuts, displaying the separation quickness to consistently go deep … Has the functional burst to get behind the defender before the catch, using his stride to get to the ball in a hurry, taking advantage of his height and long arms … When he keeps his pad level down, he is effective at getting into his routes fluidly, using his quick feet to get to the ball downfield, making proper body adjustments to extend his arm and pluck the ball … Smooth in his initial burst and can make proper body adjustments to elude at the second level … Knows how to use his size to power through arm tackles and is very good at shielding the ball from defenders … Especially effective at catching screen passes, getting to the ball even with his back to the quarterback … Uses his shake to make defenders miss and gets back to top speed in a hurry … Quiet, leader-by-example type who is a hard worker in the weight room, practice field and on game day … Tough blocker who does a nice job of facing up with aggression and has a good concept for taking angles when stalking second-level defenders … Makes a good effort to position and pester bigger pass rushers and works hard to sustain blocks … Knows how to use his hands to latch on and jerk the defender's jersey without getting caught … Once he escapes the press, he has a long stride to quickly eat up the defender's cushion … Has a good feel for the boundaries and end zone, keeping his feet in bounds while going vertical to make the catch … Has the power to drive defenders off when breaking back for the ball … Strong open-field runner who will bounce off tackles to gain extra yardage (has a fluid, smooth stride with a rapid turnover).

Negatives: Needs to improve his suddenness coming off the snap, but does build to top speed nicely … Has great hands, but will double catch at times … When he fails to sink his hips, he will sometimes take false steps coming out of his breaks … Shows good body control and has the flexibility to adjust to the ball, but needs to show better consistency (sometimes seems hesitant in his plant) … Slippery route runner, but does not have that sudden burst or second gear to win the race to the end zone on pure speed alone (best when he sets up the defender with double moves and head fakes) … Needs to improve his slide in the open zone and while he has good acceleration, he needs to use it with more consistency on transition cuts … Good short-area receiver, but when he fails to drop his pads, he struggles a bit to gain separation … Has had ball-security issues fielding punts cleanly and with his lack of suddenness, it would not be recommended to use him on special teams at the next level.

Compares To: CHRIS CHAMBERS-San Diego … Bennett might lack blazing speed, but he shows good quickness and body movement in his routes and can get off the line of scrimmage using power or finesse. His patterns are sharp and crisp with no wasted motion and he gets in and out of his breaks quickly when he keeps his pads down. He has outstanding field awareness and the ability to read coverage. He can locate the ball in a crowd and then separate. It is rare to see him misjudge a deep throw and he has also developed into a solid cut blocker. If not used as a deep threat, he will have good success moving the chains.

Career Notes

Holds the school and Southeastern Conference career record with 236 receptions, topping the old league mark of 208 grabs by Craig Yeast of Kentucky (1995-98), joining Yeast, Terrence Edwards of Georgia (204, 1999-2002) and Keith Edwards of Vanderbilt (200, 1980, 82-84) as the only players in conference history to catch 200 passes in a career … His 2,852 receiving yards rank third in Vanderbilt history behind Boo Mitchell (2,964 yards, 1985-88) and Dan Stricker (2,880 yards, 1999-2002) and placed him seventh on the SEC's all-time record chart … His 20 touchdown receptions are one shy of the school career record of 21, set by Dan Stricker … Bennett's 79 catches in 2005 were the most ever by a Vanderbilt freshman and his 82 catches in 2006 were the most by a Commodore sophomore … His 82 receptions in 2006 rank second in school history to Keith Edwards' SEC record 97 grabs in 1983 and rank eighth on the conference's annual record book … His 79 catches in 2005 tied Bob Goodridge (1967) for fourth in school history and ninth on the SEC single-season list … Only Boo Mitchell (1,213 in 1988) gained more yards receiving in a season than Bennett's 1,146 in 2006 … Caught 16 passes vs. South Carolina in 2005, the second-best game total by a Commodore, behind Keith Edwards' 17 grabs vs. Georgia in 1983 … Those 16 receptions also rank tied for fourth in the SEC single-game list … Set the school record with 223 yards receiving vs. Richmond in 2007, inching past the old Commodore mark of 222 yards by Clarence Sevillian vs. Tennessee in 1992 … The only player in school history to gain over 200 yards receiving in a game more than once in a career, also accomplishing that feat vs. Kentucky in 2006 (220) and South Carolina in 2005 (204) … His 223 yards in the 2007 Richmond clash tied Carlos Alvarez of Florida (vs. Miami in 1969) for seventh on the SEC's single-game list … Joined linebacker Jamie Winborn (1998-2000) as the only players in school history to earn All-southeastern Conference first-team honors three times in a career … First receiver in Southeastern Conference annals to catch 75 or more passes in three different seasons … Bennett set a school game-record with five touchdown catches vs. Kentucky in 2005, matching an SEC record that was first set by Carlos Carson of Louisiana State vs. Rice in 1977 and later matched by Sidney Rice of South Carolina vs. Florida Atlantic in 2006.

2007 Season

All-American third-team selection by The NFL Draft Report … All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice by the league's coaches and Associated Press … Biletnikoff Award semi-finalist (nation's top receiver) … Ranked second in the conference and led the team for the third consecutive year with 75 receptions for 830 yards (11.1-yard average) and five touchdowns … Carried 10 times for 22 yards (2.2-yard average) and attempted two passes … Gained 72 yards on five punt returns (14.4 avg) and recorded 30 points … Totaled 924 all-purpose yards, an average of 77.0 yards per game … Fumbled the ball four times, but the Commodores were able to recover each of those miscues … Gained over 100 yards receiving in the Richmond and Mississippi contests.

2007 Game Analysis

Richmond … Began the season in explosive fashion, setting a school game-record with 223 yards on a season-high thirteen receptions, including three touchdowns … Also returned three punts for 62 yards … Caught a 15-yard bubble screen from Chris Nickson for a score and ended a 71-yard, 11-play series with a 1-yard touchdown grab with 0:12 remaining in the first quarter … Also hauled in a 49-yard deep pass for a score at the start of the third quarter … Fumbled a fourth quarter punt return, but recovered the ball at the VU 19 to set up a Vanderbilt 25-yard field goal … "I can't tell you how he does it; I just know he is going to do it," quarterback Chris Nickson said of Bennett … Head to Head Competition-WR#28-David Horton (5:11-199)-No tackles.

Alabama … Struggled with ball security, fumbling the ball twice, as he grabbed six passes for 52 yards and returned two punts for 10 yards … Fumbled the ball that went out of bounds after Kareem Jackson stripped the pigskin from Bennett after a 17-yard catch near midfield midway through the third quarter … Also fumbled an early fourth quarter punt return, but quickly recovered it at the VU 40 … Head to Head Competition-WR#2-Simeon Castille (6:01-189)-Four solo tackles, one pass deflection.

Mississippi … Added eleven receptions, including six that were good for first downs, as he totaled 100 yards … His fourth quarter 10-yard reception set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Cassen Jackson-Garrison … Head to Head Competition-WR#12-Dustin Mouzon (5:11-177)-Eleven tackles (10 solos), a 9-yard sack, one forced fumble.

Eastern Michigan … Bennett grabbed nine passes for 93 yards, capping a late first quarter series with a 47-yard touchdown grab … Head to Head Competition-WR#30-Lyle Garrison (5:08-172)-One solo tackle, one pass deflection.

Auburn … The flanker connected on just four passes for 31 yards, as QB Chris Mickson misfired all day … Head to Head Competition-WR#8-Jerraud Powers (5:08-177)-No tackles.

Georgia … The offense continued to struggle, as Bennett had just 31 yards on four catches … His 16-yarder on a third-&-14 snap set up a Sean Walker 15-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter … Head to Head Competition-WR#23-Prince Miller (5:08-190)-Four tackles (2 solos), one pass deflection.

South Carolina … The Commodore receiver rushed three times for 10 yards, but was held to two receptions for 24 yards … Head to Head Competition-WR#1-Captain Munnerlyn (5:09-181)-One solo tackle.

Miami (Oh.) … After a series of three lackluster games, Bennett totaled five first downs on his eight catches for 85 yards … On the game opening series, he caught a third-&2 toss for a 7-yard gain, giving him 216 receptions for his career, a new SEC record. He added a 14-yarder on that drive, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jeff Jennings … His second quarter 40-yard receptions led to a Vanderbilt 26-yard field goal with 0:16 left in the first half … Head to Head Competition-WR#33-Jerrid Gaines (5:11-192)-Two solo tackles, one pass deflection.

Florida … Was tackled for a 4-yard loss on a reverse, adding 31 yards on five catches … Head to Head Competition-WR#4-Wondy Pierre-Louis (6:01-184)-Two tackles, one pass deflection, a 22-yard interception return.

Kentucky … Bennett registered 22 yards on five carries and 69 yards on eight catches … Head to Head Competition-WR#17-E.J. Adams (6:00-191)-One solo tackle.

Tennessee … Another offensive struggle saw Bennett catch just two passes for 26 yards, as he was tackled for a 6-yard loss on a reverse … His late second quarter 20-yarder set up a 19-yard touchdown catch by Jeff Jennings on a toss from QB MacKenzie Adams that capped an 8-play, 76-yard series … Sat out the second half of the game when he fell awkwardly on his back trying to make a catch in the second quarter … Head to Head Competition-WR#13-Brent Vinson (6:02-190)-No tackles.

Wake Forest … Bennett closed out his career with six catches for 65 yards and a score, but also fumbled the ball on an 8-yard catch late in the fourth quarter. Vanderbilt recovered the receiver's miscue and QB Richard Kovalcheck would find Bennett with a 28-yard touch-down toss two plays later … Head to Head Competition-WR#-2-Alphonso Smith (5:09-191)-Five solo tackles, a 7-yard sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble.

2006 Season

All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice by the league's coaches and recipient of the team's postseason Most Valuable Receiver Award … Put together a remarkable season, as he ranked tied for eighth in the nation with 82 receptions, the second-best season total in school history and the most catches ever by a Commodore sophomore … Ranked ninth in the major college ranks with a career-high 1,146 yards receiving (14.0-yard average), including six touchdowns … Collected 11 yards on five carries (2.2 avg) and returned eight punts for 33 yards (4.1 avg) … Completed both of his pass attempts for 45 yards, including a 30-yard score vs. Michigan … Scored 36 points and registered 1,190 all-purpose yards, an average of 99.2 yards per game … Gained over 100 yards receiving four times, including a season-high 220 yards vs. Kentucky … Fumbled once vs. Mississippi.

2006 Game Analysis

Michigan … Bennett tossed a 30-yard touchdown to Marlon White and snared six passes for 58 yards, adding five yards on a punt return.

Alabama … Followed with another pass completion for 15 yards, as he totaled 45 yards on five catches, including a 6-yard touchdown on a toss from Chris Nickson that ended a 9-play, 87-yard series with 0:14 remaining in the first half.

Tennessee State … Added 81 yards on four receptions and 11 yards on a punt return … Snared a 33-yard touchdown pass from Chris Nickson to start the fourth quarter.

Temple … Bennett hauled in four passes for 79 yards and returned three punts for 19 yards.

Mississippi … Things started tentatively for the flanker, as Bennett was tackled for a 9-yard loss on a reverse, but he grabbed ten passes for 179 yards.

Georgia … Bennett snared eight passes for 89 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown with 2:50 left in the first half.

Duke … Began a string of three consecutive 100-yard receiving performances, as he made nine catches for 184 yards and hauled in a 77-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.

Florida … Recorded a solo tackle and had a season-high thirteen receptions for 157 yards and a 31-yard touchdown with 2:30 remaining in the contest.

Kentucky … Bennett carried twice for 17 yards and came up with eleven catches for 220 yards … Caught a 41-yard touchdown as time expired in a 38-26 loss.

2005 Season

Freshman All-American second-team and Freshman All-Southeastern Conference first-team choice by The Sporting News … Earned All-SEC first-team honors (all classes) from the league's coaches and second-team accolades from the Associated Press … Named the team's Most Valuable Receiver … Ranked ninth in the nation with a school freshman record 79 receptions and ranked second in the league with 876 yards (11.1-yard average) receiving, as he also had nine touchdown grabs … Rushed five times for 11 yards (2.2 avg) and returned 12 punts for 76 yards (6.3 avg) … Recorded five tackles (three solo) and returned 19 kickoffs for 405 yards (21.3 avg) … Amassed 1,368 all-purpose yards, an average of 124.4 yards per game … Gained over 100 yards receiving in three contests … Turned the ball over twice on four fumbles … Started the team's final eight contests at flanker … Put together one of the most remarkable four-game stretches for receiving in SEC history in the final stages of season, as he made 49 catches for 545 receiving yards vs. South Carolina, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee … Set a school record and tied an SEC mark with five touchdown catches vs. Kentucky.

2005 Game Analysis

His first career reception was a 28-yarder vs. Wake Forest … Fumbled, as he gained 13 yards on a reverse, adding 36 yards on four catches and 22 yards on two punt returns vs. Mississippi … In his starting debut, he hauled in 11 passes for 124 yards in the Richmond clash … Totaled 63 yards on seven receptions, nine yards on two reverses and 25 yards on four punt returns vs. Middle Tennessee State … Registered 204 yards with his first career touchdown, a 41-yarder in the fourth quarter on a toss from Jay Cutler, finishing with a career-high 16 catches, as he lost 11 yards on a reverse, but totaled 75 yards on three kickoff returns vs. South Carolina … Followed with six receptions for 75 yards and two touchdowns whole picking up 60 yards on four kickoff returns vs. Florida, but also turned the ball over once on a fumble in that game … Had another lost fumble while coming up with thirteen catches for 99 yards and five touchdowns, adding 80 yards on three kickoff returns and 18 yards on a punt return vs. Kentucky … Closed out the season with fourteen receptions for 167 yards and a game-winning 5-yard touchdown with 1:11 left in the Tennessee contest that gave the Commodores a 28-24 decision.

Injury Report

2006: Missed two weeks of August camp with a deep right thigh contusion.

2007: Sat out the second half of the Tennessee game (11/17) when he fell awkwardly on his back trying to make a catch in the second quarter.

Agility Tests

Campus: 4.51 in the 40-yard dash … 250-pound bench press … 500-pound squat … 34-inch vertical jump … 4.52 20-yard shuttle … 32 1/4-inch arm length … 9 5/8-inch hands.

High School

Attended West End (Birmingham, Ala.) High School, playing football for head coach Jim Tyrus … Served as team captain, starting at wide receiver, running back and cornerback for an 8-3 squad that advanced to the Class 5A state playoffs as a senior … Named the City of Birmingham's Most Valuable Football Player and Most Outstanding Athlete and selected first-team 5A All-State by the Alabama Sports Writers Association … Named Birmingham City Player of the Year Award … Received All-Birmingham Metro recognition … Rushed for 829 yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 45 passes for 729 yards during his final year … Also intercepted 10 passes and totaled 52 tackles as cornerback that season … Lettered in basketball, averaging 11.2 points per game as the squad's point guard … Excelled in the classroom, graduating with a 3.82 grade point average.

Personal

Communications major, ranking near the top of his class academically … Volunteers with several efforts aimed at helping local children in inner-city Birmingham community … Son of Sarah D. Bennett and Earl Frison … Born Earl Bryan Bennett on 3/23/87 … Resides in Birmingham, Alabama.

 
 
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