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
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
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’
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
”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
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
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
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.”’