Malik Benson, hailing from the powerhouse Junior College program at Hutchinson in Kansas is headed to Alabama. The number one Junior College recruit in the country, the upside for Benson is higher than most transfers we’ve seen recently. Joining the Crimson Tide, could Benson be the next Alabama receiver in the NFL?
High School Recruiting
As a high-schooler, Benson didn’t flash in the way most do. A solid player, he was more of a track star than a high-end football prospect. Benson has a record 10.44 100-meter time, which is an elite number regardless of size but at 6’1”, it certainly jumps out. He was on track to be one of the nation’s premier track athletes for a top-flight track school but academics held him back. Unfortunately, without the grades to attend Division I program, Benson looked elsewhere, ultimately ending up with Hutchinson.
There wasn’t much to go off of with Benson, to begin with. He didn’t have the stats or tape available to show teams he can play football at an elite level. Like fellow transfer Cameron Ward, he played in a conservative Wing-T offense in high school that didn’t throw enough. In his final season, Benson posted 28-700-11 in the receiving game. To put this in context, he had a 50% reception share, a 61% receiving yardage share, and a 92% touchdown share. He was the entire receiving offense for Lansing. An elite deep threat, he was able to leverage his speed in an offense that didn’t throw. In his entire high school career, Benson had 62-1,119-11.
But the breadcrumbs were there. His senior season had elite efficiency in yards per catch, but he was one of the country’s best returners. He returned 13 kicks for 352 yards, a 27.1 return yard average. He was being used all over the field and on special teams. However, being in Kansas, it’s a generally under-scouted football state. In his final season of football, the offense he was with attempted 109 total passes and completed only 56. There wasn’t an opportunity for Benson to make his mark.
One Year at Hutchinson
As a first-year player at Hutchinson, Benson dominated. With 43 catches for 1,229 yards and 11 touchdowns, he was the focal point of the Blue Dragons’ offense. For those without a calculator, that’s an absurd 28.6 yards per reception, improving on his already elite high school average. Overall, he had a 58% receiving market share and a 4.0 yards per team pass attempt. He passed every test he could from a production perspective with flying colors.
Benson didn’t just dominate within the context of Hutchinson against scrubs. The best junior college at producing quality FBS and NFL players, there were other quality receivers on this team. He played with Cortez Braham, a West Virginia commit, and Demariyon Houston, a one-time Nebraska commit. Players with more experience and seniority.
This is a guy who earned his reputation. He had offers from the top schools in the nation including Georgia and Oregon before committing to Nick Saban’s Tide. There isn’t a wealth of film from his days at Hutchinson, but his top plays jump on tape.
There are a couple of takeaways from his tape. First, he’s a very good route runner. He can manipulate leverage in the secondary with his speed and can operate close to the line with his shiftiness. Second, his yards after the catch ability is at an elite level. He can make guys miss and break off an innocent screen for a huge play. His athleticism is a huge part of his game, and it shows on film. He knows how to leverage this, especially in an era with so many great athletes, it’s important to know how to use your physical gifts. He is almost a mix between two recent Alabama receivers, Henry Ruggs III and Jameson Williams. Finally, he is freaking fast.
Impact at Alabama and The Receiver Group
It was clear to anyone who was listening that the young receivers didn’t wow Nick Saban last year. In 2021, they weren’t ready, and it showed in their National Championship loss to Georgia. Alabama immediately addressed the lack of veteran presence acquiring Georgia receiver Jermaine Burton and Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell in the portal. Benson is the newest addition to their receiver transfer class, albeit for the 2023 season.
I think this tells an interesting story. Burton is an immediate starter on this offense. He’s a quality receiver who was underutilized at Georgia. Tyler Harrell is at worst a part-time deep threat with elite speed who can disrupt defenses and keep them honest. These two bolstered depth in the receiving room and that’s fair. However, Malik Benson feels closer to a luxury add than addressing a need despite being a year away. He adds an element of speed, the offense has in place and has legit size at 6’1” 190lbs. He now contends with both JoJo Earle and Jacorey Brooks for touches in their year three seasons.
Benson, who played primarily outside at Hutchinson can be utilized both outside and inside. He immediately jumps into a crowded rotation with the aforementioned Earl and Brooks but also Christian Leary and top-60 overall incoming freshmen Aaron Anderson, Isaiah Bond, and Shazz Preston. This room is crowded. But it also tells us Saban isn’t satisfied. JoJo Earle struggled with drops in Spring and there’s worry about how secure his role is. Brooks is an outside option, but they brought three guys in to play that role in the portal. As depth? As starters? We’ll see.
If I was invested in an Alabama sophomore receiver, I would be concerned at the trend we’ve seen and Malik Benson only adds to this given his experience.