After not having any four-star commits on defense for a long time, Michigan suddenly now has three in the span of five days after Kechaun Bennett jumped into the fold late Wednesday night.
After scouting all of Michigan’s defensive commits this cycle, it’s becoming increasingly hard to figure out where everyone is going to fit. Don Brown is transitioning into a positionless scheme where standard positions are gone and everyone falls along a spectrum.
With that in mind, it’s better to not think of Bennett as a strong-side defensive end as 247Sports has him listed. For one, he’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, which is too slim to play anchor at Michigan. Instead, it’s easier to just designate Bennett as a pass rusher, whether that is at weak-side end, SAM backer, or VIPER (the position Michigan reportedly recruited him to play).
As mentioned above, Bennett is still pretty lanky. He does have room to pack on 30 to 40 pounds, which would put him around Josh Uche territory and a little lighter than Kwity Paye. The best thing about Bennett’s frame is that he is all limbs. His arms are really long, which is essential for pass rushers to keep separation from blockers.
This play from his highlight reel (no full games available) displays the advantage of his arm length well. Bennett shoves the tackle back, extending his arms out to keep him at bay, then swipes over the top to disengage and gets to the quarterback.
However, Bennett uses this trait inconsistently, instead catching blocks with his shoulder. Using your arms allows a player to control the blocker and prevent them from grabbing onto your pads or jersey. But when a player leads with their shoulder, they open up a huge target for the blocker to engage with. In this play Bennett chips the blocker with his shoulder, causing them to bounce off each other and slowing his pursuit of the play.
Another thing I like about Bennett is his get off. He is naturally twitchy and explodes off the line when he wants to. In this next clip he goes unblocked, but almost gets a sack on a bubble screen, which is crazy.
I’d like to see him not in a three-point stance off the ball to see if that burst still holds up. If it does, he will be a natural at the SAM backer position.
Bennett uses this burst to bend around tackles without gaining too much depth in the backfield. He crushes pockets by getting around the line at seven to eight yards and overwhelming the quarterback.
He still has a chance to improve on this skill even more by working on his pad level. In the play above he gets around easily on speed, but is standing too high. By staying low out of his stance, he can reduce his resistance and get to the quarterback even faster.
The inconsistency in play is a theme in Bennett’s film. He’ll have a lot of technique issues to clean up over the next few years and develop into good habits that will allow him to take advantage of his natural length and athleticism. This gives Bennett a high ceiling, but also a low floor.
If Bennett puts it all together, he would be best at SAM backer, a position whose role I believe Don Brown is trying to increase in his defense. There, Bennett would be able to take full advantage of his pass-rushing skills. If he can add even more weight and get up to around 270 pounds, I could also see him at weak-side end, although the defensive ends are starting to look the same under Brown and have fewer pass-rush responsibilities.
Either way, Bennett will need a redshirt year to develop his body further and hone his technique. After a couple of years, he should start rotating in snaps and hopefully tap into his immense potential.