RECRUITING: Benton’s Affairs in Order
Bastrop (La.) wide receiver DeAngelo Benton waiting on NCAA Clearinghouse; LSU waiting on his decision on Wednesday
by Matt Deville
Tiger Rag Senior Editor
(At left) DeAngelo Benton is ready to get back on the football field. (Photo by Matt Deville)
BASTROP, La. – It is a wild scene in the small northeast Louisiana town of Bastrop, La.
“Rueben-Mania” has swept through the community as the countdown is on for impending decision of nation’s No. 1 ranked wide receiver.
However, the media storm surrounding Rueben Randle isn’t the only story in town. While it is getting a great deal of attention, the subplots in Bastrop are as equally intriguing as the cover story.
Two other current Bastrop players are heading off to play major college football. Josh Downs is expected to sign with LSU next Wednesday after having been committed to the Tigers for nearly a year.
DeQuinta Jones has taken other visits recently, but is still projected to ink a letter of intent to play for Michigan on National Signing Day.
Of course, everyone is aware of the choices before Randle, who will likely choose between LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma and Miami on Feb. 4.
But there’s another player hailing from Bastrop that also will make a decision on Wednesday.
DeAngelo Benton was the No. 2 rated wide receiver in the nation way back in 2006. He signed a letter of intent with LSU as part of the Class of 2007, but Benton came up short in the classroom.
He spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy in the fall of 2007 and was expected to report to LSU in the summer of 2008. There was a discrepancy in his transcript and his eligibility for the 2008 season was denied by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
Benton did not return to Hargrave in the fall of 2008. Instead, the 6-2, 200-pound wide receiver remained in Bastrop to try and shore up any remaining academic issues that could stand in his way and NCAA eligibility.
“Last summer, there were five people who sat in this room, including DeAngelo, and made a commitment to see this thing through,” said Bastrop head coach Brad Bradshaw on Wednesday.
The Rams’ head coach indicated all courses and paperwork have been completed and sent, along with his transcripts, to the NCAA Clearinghouse. And according to Bradshaw, Benton is ready to go.
“All the work has been completed this time,” Bradshaw said. “But we still have got to get through the Clearinghouse. When we get through the Clearinghouse, I’ll say he’s eligible. He’s done everything that he was told to do by the NCAA. He was not cleared last summer because he messed up and because of my not understanding all the rules and what it took. They told him what he needed to do. But that’s behind him now. He made a mistake.”
As previously stated, Benton was ranked a five-star prospect by every recruiting service and one of the stars in Les Miles’ 2007 class of recruits.
But one typical flaw in the recruiting world is the effects of short-term memory.
With two full recruiting seasons having passed since Benton was supposed to arrive at LSU, the two-time state champion receiver has become sort of an afterthought. Some have figured he hasn’t played in so long, there might be rust.
Bradshaw indicated the layoff hasn’t affected Benton.
“It doesn’t matter to him,” said Bradshaw, who led the Rams to three straight Class 4A state titles from 2005-07. “I mean, we’re talking about the best player I ever coached. He’s ready to play. He can step right back out there and be ready to go. He’s a football player.”
With his academics seemingly in line and the on-the-field abilities not a problem, the only question remains – will Benton honor his first commitment and sign with LSU on Feb. 4?
“No, I haven’t made up my mind,” he said. “But I know if I turn LSU down, I’ll be letting down a lot of people.”
Letting people down is fresh on Benton’s mind, including someone quite special.
“Man, I’ll tell you this, if I don’t go where I’m supposed to go, my girl is going to be mad,” Benton said Wednesday.
Word spread like wildfire across the Internet last week about Benton’s recent visit to Auburn. Coaches from Gene Chizik’s staff – including offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn – were spotted in Bastrop on Tuesday.
Benton, who is set to visit LSU this weekend, said there wasn’t anything to it.
“I talked to Auburn, but it was just talking,” Benton said. “I talked to them a couple of weeks ago when they came down here for Rueben. I had a pretty good visit there. It was nice. They have all new coaches. I had told coach Miles that I was going to visit them, and he wanted me to come down this weekend. So I’m going to LSU this weekend.”
There is a noon press conference slated at the Bastrop High School library on Feb. 4. At that media gathering, the college-bound Ram players are scheduled to sign their respective letters of intent. Unlike his more high-profile teammate Randle, Benton isn’t much for the spotlight.
“I’d rather just sign down here at the (Bastrop) stadium in coach Brad’s office,” Benton said shyly. “I ain’t all about that.”