No. 20 Duke attempts to slow WR Kelvin Benjamin

Duke must find a way to slow down Florida State receiver Kelvin

Benjamin if the No. 20 Blue Devils want to have a chance of

upsetting the top-ranked Seminoles in the Atlantic Coast Conference

championship.

That’s a tall order, considering Duke David Cutcliffe admits his

squad doesn’t ”have anybody that can line up and match up

physically” with the 6-foot-5, 234 pound Benjamin.

”We’ll be working all week on that answer,” Cutcliffe

said.

The Blue Devils (10-2, 6-2 ACC) face Florida State Saturday and

must come up with schemes to defend Benjamin, who had 212 yards

receiving and three touchdowns against Florida in the Seminoles’

regular-season finale.

Benjamin has seven touchdown receptions in the last four games

and his 12 overall are tied for the fourth-most during a season in

school history. He has the look of an NFL receiver in street

clothes, and that’s before Benjamin gets on the field and runs by

smaller defensive backs.

The Blue Devils only have two defensive backs on the first- or

second-team taller than 6-foot – 6-1 cornerback Garett Patterson

and 6-2 safety Jeremy Cash.

”Benjamin is probably one of the rarest athletes in college

football, with his size and his speed,” Duke cornerback Ross

Cockrell said. ”He has great hands, great leaping ability. I think

the best way to defend against somebody like that is to challenge

them up front. What we’ve done all year is we’ve been physical with

receivers, and we’re going to try and be physical with them, as

well.

”I don’t know if we have to bracket him. We’re going to play

football like we’ve been playing all year. We play our coverages,

whether it’s zone or man, and we go up and try to challenge

receivers, and we’ll do the same thing this weekend.”

The red zone is one of the biggest area of concern.

Benjamin caught touchdowns of 45 and 29 yards against the

Gators, but he’s one of Jameis Winston’s favorite targets near the

end zone. Winston’s future remains uncertain with the ongoing

sexual assault investigation, but he is expected to play

Saturday.

The two constantly worked on the fade route during the summer to

exploit smaller defenders. One of the most impressive plays of the

season came on in incomplete pass in which Benjamin was positioned

along the back of the end zone and caught the ball higher than the

field goal crossbar, but landed out of bounds.

”I know it’s unfair at the end of the day because a lot of

cornerbacks are like 5-11 (or slightly taller),” Benjamin said

”I’m going to get it at the highest point. It doesn’t really

matter where he’s at.

”I’m going to get the ball at the end of the day.”

Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner said it takes help to defend

Benjamin. The first-team All-ACC cornerback explained that

defenders have to play to their help in coverage and be technically

sound.

The task hasn’t always been so difficult. The redshirt sophomore

only played three years of high school football and is still

learning the position. Benjamin said the goal is to play small –

running precise routes, being quick in and out of cuts – and let

his size be a natural advantage.

Benjamin is ”playing as if he has no ability,” Florida State

coach Jimbo Fisher said. ”’I’m the worse player on the team. I

have to run my routes. I’ve got to have technique. I’ve got to do

this to get open.’

”When you combine that with his size and speed, then you have a

dominant player. He truly understands that.”

Benjamin had 30 receptions and four touchdowns in 2012. He’s

dropped weight, dedicated himself to learning the position and had

a change of attitude.

”He came into college with the freshman blues,” Joyner

said.

Winston singled Benjamin out in front of teammates before the

game last week. Apparently, it worked.

”I said, `KB you are an unstoppable force,”’ Winston said.

”’If you go out there and do what you’ve got to do you will be

unstoppable and no one will be able to cover you.’ I told him in

front of the whole team, `no one will be able to cover you.”’