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Benefield's unexpected move has paid off
Redshirt freshman added 20 pounds of muscle to switch from safety to linebacker
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Redshirt freshman Terrione Benefield was a 190-pound safety, but a lack of bodies at linebacker forced the Conyers native to move closer to the trenches. - photo by MICHELLE BOAEN/staff
Out of pure necessity, Terrione Benefield made a move he’d never anticipated this spring. Georgia Southern desperately needed linebackers, and Benefield, a physical safety, seemed like he would be a good fit. “I never I thought I’d be down there at linebacker,” said the redshirt freshman, who has started every game this season at his new position. “It really has been a challenge for me. I’ve had to gain weight. I came in at 190. Now I’m at 210 and I still have weight to gain. It’s been hard.” Georgia Southern fans have witnessed his progress and difference-making abilities. Through seven games, Benefield has 32 tackles and three interceptions, both are second-most on the team. He also has 5.5 tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and a sack. “He’s making strides every week, and he’s making big plays on Saturday,” senior linebacker John Mohring said. “He’s just really come along considering he was a safety last year and moved down to linebacker. It’s a tough transition, and he’s done a great job. As a senior, I’m proud of him.” For Benefield, getting acquainted with the linebacker position involved a change in mentality. “I don’t really believe in the spring he thought of himself as a linebacker,” GSU coach Brian VanGorder said. “But as he started to learn the system and make plays, I think he’s been more comfortable and encouraged by the move and obviously been a productive player through games. It’s been a rough transition for him.” Benefield, a 6-foot Conyers native, said one of the biggest challenges is adjusting to his new vantage point. “At safety, you can see the whole field,” he said. “At linebacker, you have the big o-line in your face and big fullbacks coming at you every play. So it’s been tough just learning how to use my hands and feet to be much quicker.” Speed and quickness are some of his strengths, along with good vision — all traits required in outside linebackers. “For being such a young guy, he’s picked up on the defense rather quickly,” linebacker coach Mark Collins said. “He’s been forced to play, and he’s responded really well. He’s a smart football player.” The Eagles relied heavily on Benefield earlier this year when senior linebacker Jason Earwood missed three games with a concussion. With Earwood out, Benefield saw more snaps in the Eagles’ sub-package (two linebackers). Up until the Elon game, he was the only defensive player that played every snap of the season. Earwood’s return two weeks ago cut down on Benefield’s snaps. While some are surprised to see him on the field so much as a redshirt freshman, Benefield admits that he expected to play early in his college career. “But not as much as I am right now,” he said. Benefield likes playing alongside two seniors, Mohring and Earwood, who he says helps take some of the pressure off of him. “We are very optimistic about a young man that’s a freshman,” VanGorder said. “We’ve got to build power and strength with him, but as you can see with his interceptions, he is a playmaker type of guy with good hands and good instincts. His shortcoming right now is his experience. He’s going to be a fine player.” Georgia Southern (3-4, 2-2) travels to The Citadel (2-2, 2-5) for a 2 p.m. game Saturday. Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.