FORT WAYNE – Everyone seems to believe that Jaylin Bennett is more suited to play tight end than running back – all except Woodlan coach Sherwood Haydock.
That’s why Haydock made the 6-foot-5, 216-pound Bennett his bruising runner in his one-back system a year ago. Haydock, who coached at Harding, saw Bennett in the same mold as ex-Hawks standout Rod Smith, who earned a scholarship to Ohio State and become the SAC’s all-time leading rusher.
In a one-back system you need your best athlete who can run with the football, Haydock said. I never thought about it because of (Bennett’s) height, but last year he broke some tackles on one of his receptions and I thought, well Rod Smith was tall (6-4) so I tried (Bennett) at running back and the rest is history. Colleges have looked at him mostly as a tight end; however, I believe a big mistake is being made. He is a true-blue running back. Forget his height and look at his running style. He runs extremely hard and breaks tackles. He makes one good cut and then goes, perfect zone running back.
The numbers seem to support Haydock.
Bennett, who leads northeast Indiana with 1,148 rushing yards, has played 13 games at running back for the Warriors (4-2, 2-1 ACAC) and has averaged 172 yards per game as a starter. He has been over 100 yards in 12 of those games. The only time he didn’t go over 100 yards was last year against Leo (6-0, 3-0), the Warriors’ opponent tonight.
The senior team captain holds school records for attempts in a game (45), season (217) and yards in a game (260), season (1,148 and counting) and career (2,241 and counting).
But even Bennett sees his future at tight end. That’s where he started his varsity football career playing at Harding and in his first year at Woodlan after Harding closed.
I felt like it was a better place because I can do more for the team at running back, but I see myself more at tight end because I am growing out of a running back, so I will be better at tight end when I can put more weight on, Bennett said. Physicality is key at running back. You have to be that way, especially in the Haydock offense because he loves to pound the ball so you have to be durable. It is good for me because I am getting the experience of running the ball, so if I have to do it later on I will be able to do it. I think I will be better at tight end, so it take the pressure of the running game and spread it out.
Already with an offer from Saint Francis, Bennett has visited Indiana and will be headed to the University of Indianapolis this weekend for a visit. The Cougars are recruiting him as a receiver, IU at tight end and Indianapolis hasn’t specified where they foresee him playing.
I am just blessed to have this moment and get this opportunity in football to go somewhere in college, Bennett said.
A solid A-B student, Bennett runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash, bench presses 300 pounds and has high-jumped a school-record 6 feet, 6 inches. He is also one of the better basketball players in the ACAC, averaging 7.7 rebounds per game last year.
Haydock said Bennett’s versatility goes beyond just the two positions. The coach figures he could play Bennett as every offensive position, except quarterback, and he has played defensive end and outside linebacker on occasion.
We only play him on defense when needed because of his workload on offense, Haydock said.