April 7, 2013
By Matt Winkeljohn
We all know of Ray Beno’s versatility; it was on display for the world to see last fall when Georgia Tech’s left tackle turned into Calvin Johnson, caught a deflected pass, and rumbled – yes, rumbled – nine yards for a first down.
“Big Beno,” as Wes Durham referred to him that day against Duke, was on the move again Saturday when in the Yellow Jackets’ first true scrimmage of the spring he came in contact with the ball again – at center.
With injuries sidelining offensive linemen Jay Finch (starting center), Will Jackson (a previous starter at guard and tackle spots), Morgan Bailey (another multi-spot man) and Freddie Burden (redshirt freshman center), the Jackets have been moving around.
Catlin Alford has handled most of the work at center this spring. Saturday, Beno also got a chance to flex his flexibility.
“I let Ray get in there at center and get some snaps. That’s something that’s in the back of my mind just in case [as a possible emergency plan],” said offensive line coach Mike Sewak. “He knows all the plays; that’s a great versatility for us because he can snap.
“I could probably get the same with Morgan, the same with Jay. I don’t know about Will because he’s never snapped.”
Beno is likely to be the starting left tackle as a fifth-year senior. Saturday, he had to jog his memory a bit.
“I haven’t been there in a while,” he said. “I played right tackle my whole high school career [at Newnan]. The last time I was at center was a long time ago, my redshirt freshman year .”
Alford is a work in progress.
“There are some situations where I think he can get a lot better,” Sewak said of the redshirt junior from Adairsville. “He has been making fewer errors at the point of attack. He’s a guy that seems to care about his development, which is crucial.”
Sewak is trying to get a feel for who can do what and where. In some cases, he already knows. In others, he’s exploring. That’s why several linemen have moved around.
“When you ask guys to get out of their comfort zones, they won’t play as hard and as fast so it does help later,” he said of the purpose behind the shuffling. “The closer to the ball, the more intense the collision is going to be because you’ve got that nose coming at you when you’ve got your hand delivering the ball. You really have to use your feet . . . .
“The guard is a guy who is going to be out in space a little more, but he also has to get inside and be a little more physical. The tackle is definitely a space eater. He’s a guy that’s got to combo block, get on a linebaker, sprint outside and set the edge on a toss.”
Beno, who has started 26 games the past two seasons, sees a work in progress. Translation: line play has been erratic.
“I think it’s getting there. We’re definitely going to have to mesh a little better,” he said. “There are so many injuries right now on the O-line . . . we’re having to re-adjust our positions, but I think as spring continues we’ll get that down.”
Beno said fans and students alike still single him out in celebration of his reception with the occasional, “Hey, aren’t you the guy that caught that ball?” moment. And, yeah, he still relishes it.
“I’ve had a couple people stop me,” Big Beno said. “I do have a Youtube out there, and I think I’m at 17,000 views. If I could get that number up, that would be great.” Here, there was a big grizzly grin. And here is that catch again. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org