April 4, 2018
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Georgia Tech football has got tons of film at its disposal.
KirVonte Benson has probably seen every piece of it from the 2017 season.
A lot of it is very good. There were 204 carries, in which he gained 1,073 yards, six of them ending in touchdowns. He also had two catches, good for 16 yards. Five of his plays were “Big Plays,” plays gaining more than 20 yards, with two of those going more than 60.
But the junior B-back knows that getting caught up in the good things that he did last season won’t do much in the way of making progress for this season. That’s why Benson didn’t pay attention to all that.
Instead, he went through Tech’s 11 games with a fine-tooth comb in pursuit of all the things that he DID NOT do or improve.
“(There are) A lot of things I can do better — vision, footwork, a lot of things,” he said. “Being hit and not going to the ground as easily, overall just playing the game. Being a student rather than just a player. Trying to mix both the educated side and the physical side. No more getting caught from behind, and doing little things to make me a better player.”
Benson was really good last season. Amongst the Yellow Jackets, only quarterback TaQuon Marshall ran for more yards and more yards per game than his 95.7. Only Marshall scored more points and found the end zone more — wide receiver Ricky Jeune also had 36 points, hitting pay dirt six times. KirVonte and TaQuon became only the second tandem in Yellow Jackets history to rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, the first since 2009, when B-back Jonathan Dwyer and quarterback Joshua Nesbitt did it. Four times Benson and Marshall each ran for over 100 yards and his 196 yards against Pittsburgh were the most ever by a B-back in the Paul Johnson era. Not bad for a guy who didn’t have a carry coming into 2017.
But that was 2017.
Benson, is treating spring 2018 as if he’s anything but a shoo-in to be with the first team for each day’s practice, never mind be in the starting backfield when the Jackets take on Alcorn State in the season-opener Sept. 1. He’s as hungry this year as he was during the spring of 2017.
“I practice as if I’m not going to be the starter. In my mind every position is up for grabs right now,” he said. “I believe anybody can play. We have a fresh team coming in, with a lot of freshmen coming up, a lot of new faces, new people. So I take the challenge on. It’s going to be interesting. I believe whoever starts is going to make an impact.”
The nearest B-back to Benson production-wise last season was freshman Jerry Howard, who had about 1/6th of the yardage — Howard had 175 yards on 23 carries. But a new year means a new season and a new competition to start at B-back.
Benson’s not approaching this year the same.
“I have a different mindset, a different playing style,” he said. “I’m trying to change up some of the things that I did last year, running wise, physical-wise, pile-wise, even working out-wise, trying to improve myself so I can be more of an all-around B-back and more of an impact to the team than just being that power back that we’re used to.”
Having the likes of returnees Howard, redshirt freshman Jordan Ponchez-Mason, who may also see time at A-back, and any new faces that throw their hat into the ring excites Benson. Of course, he wants his share of carries, but he admits that he wouldn’t mind having a quality guy come in to give him an occasional blow.
“Most definitely. I think Jerry’s come a long way from freshman year,” he said. “He’s learned a lot. He’s improving from day-to-day. I think he can bring the tenacity as if I was on the field. So I think all the B-backs can do the same thing. Just having an option to actually get out and we’ll still be okay is definitely something to look forward to.”
Benson would actually look forward to sharing time in the film room with his fellow B-backs, A-backs, wide receivers…heck, anybody’s welcome….Anybody that wants to come watch some film with him and see what can be done to improve on 2017.
“Looking over tapes, a lot of old games I could see a lot of flaws — not just my game, the offense, period,” he said. “Trying to correct those flaws, trying to become a better team as a whole, that’s something we have to really do this year. People know what we’re coming with. We’re not really sneaking up on anybody. They’re preparing to stop the option, they’re preparing to stop the running game. They know we struggle sometimes with passing. So we’ve got to upgrade all those areas and I think we can be good this year.”
Being better than last season when he feels the Jackets let games they shouldn’t have slip away.
“One game that kind of stood out to me was the Clemson game (a 24-7 loss). We struggled coming out with ball-security. We didn’t really get too much of a running game and when we did, it’s kind of getting caught from behind or not getting as much as we could,” said Benson, who ran for a game-high 129 yards — the only back all year to top 100 yards rushing vs. the Tigers — but also lost a fumble on the first possession that the Tigers cashed in. “We’re a running team so we have to do much better. Teams that on paper we should beat, we’ve got to be able to come out sooner.”
That starts with him.
“I’ve got to be able to produce from game-to-game. You can’t come from having a 104-yard game to a 26-yard game,” said Benson, referring to his actual drop-off from the first game against Tennessee to the second, a win over Jacksonville State. He’s determined not to let it happen again. He feels the same about last year’s 5-6 record.
That’s the goal this spring and leading into fall camp.
He’s seen what he can do and he’s seen enough of what they didn’t…and is determined that he won’t see the latter again.
“Looking back at so many things I could have done better — if I hit this hole a different way or if I ran this a different way,” he said. “That’s being a student of the game, studying tape, studying people, studying coaches, figuring out why they do what they do. By doing that I can learn, be able to bring it out to the field and be a better running back overall. I believe all of us can do the same. You can see so many flaws that we think we’re not doing in the game. If you look on tape, it’s there.”