By Merrick Itera (with Tank Bennett)
Rookie Interview #2: Tank Bennett, DB,
University of Michigan
6’4”, 226 lbs.
Another day at the SFL Combine. After appraising the offensive talent in this draft, I felt like it was time to take a look at the defensive side of the ball in the hopes of finding someone who might be able to offset the offensive stars coming into the league through the draft looming just over the horizon. With the proliferance of talent set to join the 21 SFL teams hungry for new blood, who was going to be the one to step up and offset their supposed dominance? I got my answer quickly, after observing the first couple defensive secondary drills. After checking my cutsheet and locating his number, I found his name; Tank Bennett. I could see that he was coming out of Coach Harbaugh’s system in Michigan and that he could play any position that was needed in the secondary better than anyone we’d seen during our personal scouting sessions. After watching him pick off a pass and take it to the house, staring down the quarterback during the entire runback, I heard the whistle blow signaling the end of that particular drill and approached him as he was coming off the field, eager to learn a little bit more about this defensive playmaker destined for SFL greatness. How did he feel he’d match up against the offensive stalwarts of our league? Which position in the secondary did he prefer? Here’s what I learned…
MI: Tank! Do you have a few minutes? I’m Mr. Itera, GM for the Las Vegas Fury. I’d like to get some information from you and tell your story to the SFL, does that sound like something you’d be willing to do?
TB: Absolutely. I’d be happy to talk to a fellow DB and to let the league know who I am.
MI: Glad to see my fame precedes me, and that you’ve got a few minutes for me –That’s what I was hoping to hear! Now, I know you’re coming here straight from the University of Michigan – how do you think your tool set with transfer to the SFL?
TB: I think playing in the Big Ten conference has set me up perfectly for the SFL. The coaches at Michigan really helped me develop into the kind of safety that is going to make offenses think twice about coming to my side of the field. Whether it’s on the ground or in the air.
MI: Now I hear you saying safety, but I’ve seen you shutting down those chump WRs out there on the practice field in 1 on 1 coverage from the line… Are you just practicing to stay sharp, or are you thinking about trying CB out once you get picked up?
TB: Safety is home to me, but early on at Michigan I would do anything to get on the field so I spent time rotating in with the corners working one on ones and getting in their rotation. Once I solidified myself as a safety, it became a skill that I kept working on so I would be able to offer the most to teams at the next level.
MI: So, do you trend more towards the Strong or the Weak side, as far as your safety play? I know you can hit; I’ve heard the RB’s and WR’s talking about you as they’re all nursing shoulders and elbows after practice… but with your coverage skills, you’ve out played quite a few people to the ball as well… which side feels more natural to you?
TB: I definitely lean towards the strong side. I like the balance you have to achieve playing that side of the defense. Being asked to cover a franchise’s key TE or drop deep into coverage to help out a CB in Zone while also being prepared to step up and crush a RB out of his cleats is the kind of pressure I thrive on.
MI: I appreciate a fellow DB willing to put a target on his back like that… you can’t teach that type of confidence. I mean, you’ve got the speed and the size to slot in anywhere a team might need you in the secondary, and Offensive Coordinators don’t forget rookies that put it out there like that – that’s a rockstar move right there, Tank… I like it.
MI: Speaking of offenses… any current SFL veterans you’ve got in your sights once the season starts? Who do you think is going to give you the most challenges? Any signal callers you’ve already scouted out?
TB: The obvious guys are Alaska QB R. Cockren and Tallahassee QB C. Christiansen. Both those guys didn’t make it to the championship last year by accident. Christiansen will be especially hungry after falling just short (again). I think Indy could be team to look out for on offense – I’ve heard the talk about Pepper but he might surprise some people next year. Of course, I could be wrong; it’s possible all of those hits he’s taken could have cumulatively negative effect on his game. Regardless, it will be fun to take a pick or two back to the house against him.
MI: I know what you mean. I’ve played against 2/3s of those guys personally, and I can tell you that in Indianapolis QB T. Pepper throws as well as anyone… which is hard to believe when you see him peel himself off the turf as many times as he does from game to game. I haven’t played against Tallahassee QB C. Christiansen yet, but I’m looking forward to getting the chance at some point… and Alaska QB R. Cockren and I have unfinished business. What about the ball carriers in the league? Anyone you’re chomping at the bit to bring back down to earth?
TB: The other guy I’m looking forward to facing is Mexico City RB R. Bentley. I’ve seen what kind of devastation he can do on the field, but even an Altered Beast can’t survive the type of punch a Tank can deliver.
MI: So does that mean you’re planning on suiting up in the Western Conference then? Because that’s the one thing that Alaska QB R. Cockren and Mexico City RB R. Bentley have in common, besides a Championship Ring… and a Championship MVP trophy.
TB: True, but I haven’t narrowed down any conference or team that I plan on playing for. While going up against them twice a year would be great, there are a lot of good teams I would love to face in the Eastern and Southern conferences as well.
MI: What I’m getting from this is that, at your core, you’re a competitor who wants to measure up against the best that the SFL has to offer. Where does that competitive drive come from? What fuels the engine running this tank?
TB: It started when I was young in rec league. I would always see the other guys fighting in line to go up against the weaker players in practice to try and look good for the coaches. It drove me nuts to see guys celebrating and acting like they were tough $#*! Going up against our 3rd string guys and then making mistakes that would cost us in games. I always picked out the best guy on the team and faced him over and over. I knew if I wanted to be the best I had to beat the best and it’s got me here today.
MI: I can see that your attitude has carried onto the combine field as well – I’ve seen you lined up against most of the high level WRs out here the past few days… are there a couple of these wide-outs that have your number, or are you shutting them down when they come at you across the middle? Anyone you go over game film with after hours, or challenge in skill drills? Any QB’s having nightmares about you after lights out?
TB: Yeah, there’s some guys out here that fit that bill. Xander Gold and Thomas Ramen have been fun to line up against when they are working with the WRs. I think that they’re both going to do big things in the SFL, but I wouldn’t say that anybody has “had my number” in this combine. Marcus Dunhill is another guy that has been impressive to watch, especially seeing him run over the “great” Aman Takess. I’ve been working on some extra-curricular drills with Kody Hill to improve my footwork because he has some of the quickest feet I’ve seen. I’ll tell you this much; this rookie class is going to make some waves in the SFL and I am happy to be at the front of it.
MI: Yeah, it definitely seems to me that you’re enjoying the challenges and opportunities that the SFL combine has presented you with. I know our conversation is in danger of cutting into your lunch hour, though, so I’ll let you go with a final question – What does the SFL need to know about Tank Bennett that they don’t already? What is the team that drafts you bringing to their team that they don’t already have?
TB: I’m a pretty open book so there is not much left for teams to learn. Whoever I end up getting drafted by is going to get a difference maker on their defense, that’s for sure. I mean, I’ve heard that some of the scouts are marking me down for my lack of communication, but I’ll say this; while I may not be the biggest vocal presence in the locker room, I can guarantee you that I will make my presence felt by every opponent dumb enough to try me on the field. I may talk softly, but who needs to carry a big stick when you’re inside a TANK!
MI: I think if we asked the offensive personnel with the ice packs over there, they’d agree with you! Now then, I won’t stand between a fellow DB and the chow line; eat up, keep making your mark on all the other rookies and the scouts, and the rest of the SFL and I will wait to see where you jump off the board come draft day! Thanks for taking the time, Tank.
TB: I appreciate it Mr. Itera. Good luck next season.
MI: Where I’m going, Tank; I won’t NEED luck… and it appears that neither will you.