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Rayshaun Benny’s path to Michigan, outlook for 2023

A rising junior, Benny is name to watch along the defensive interior.

Michigan Spring Football Game Photo by Jaime Crawford/Getty Images

Michigan’s defensive line has a chance to be one of the best units in the country this season. With a plethora of experience and talent, the defensive front has steadily been sharpened by preparing against the best offensive line in the country the last two seasons.

Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins is the group's star, but the supporting players will also play pivotal roles this season, including third-year tackle Rayshaun Benny.

The story so far

A former four-star recruit from Detroit, Benny played and exceled on both sides of the ball in high school. As college scouts flooded his inbox, he quickly realized his best chance of succeeding at the next level would come as a defensive player.

Laser focused on becoming a premier edge rusher, Benny committed to Michigan in Nov. 2020. Except not the Michigan Wolverines; Benny committed to play for Mel Tucker and the Michigan State Spartans one week after they had defeated the Wolverines at an empty Big House.

Perhaps the uncertainty of head coach Jim Harbaugh’s future worried Benny, and he preferred the stability offered by first-year head coach Tucker. Perhaps the campus visit with live animals and selfies with Tucker took it over the top, but whatever the reason, it was a devastating blow to Michigan’s recruiting class which featured no four or five-star talent on the defensive line.

However, once Harbaugh and his new-look staff were locked in to return for the 2021 season, the Wolverines pursued Benny with a vengeance; some would say with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. And on Feb. 3, those efforts were rewarded when Benny shocked the Spartans and flipped his commitment to the Wolverines.

Although he played edge in high school, Michigan’s coaching staff envisioned Benny having more success on the interior with his 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame.

Changing positions and being projected behind the likes of Christopher Hinton, Mazi Smith, Donovan Jeter and Kris Jenkins afforded Benny the time he needed to adjust his body. By the time the season officially began, Benny had already beefed up to 292 pounds. But despite the weight increase, the learning curve was too steep and the talent ahead of him was too deep. Benny barely saw the field as a freshman, but that did not discourage him.

Benny attacked his new position with the same aggression that attracted his extensive recruiting attention in the first place. His practice effort was enough to catch the coaches’ attention and earn him Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week honors before the fourth game of the season.

As a sophomore, Benny was ready to apply his aggression to live-game action. Despite playing for a new position coach and a new defensive coordinator, Benny entered the defensive tackle rotation in Week 1 and never left it.

Alternating with Smith, Jenkins, and newcomers Mason Graham and Cam Goode, Benny was disruptive in limited minutes despite only racking up 13 total tackles. The highlight of his season undoubtedly came against Ohio State when his pressure forced quarterback CJ Stroud to throw an interception, thus icing the game. In one of the biggest moments of the year, it was Benny who sealed it.

Building off the momentum he created in 2022, Benny is looking to elevate his game even further In 2023.

Outlook for 2023

Benny will not be a starter this season, but he will play as much, if not more, than any other non-starter on the entire team. Jenkins, Graham, Benny, Goode and Kenneth Grant will comprise one of the team's deepest and most-feared position groups.

Despite still operating in a rotational capacity, Benny — no stranger to surprise commitments or surprise big plays — might just be the surprise player of the 2023 season.