Best Available WRs this Draft Class

By Paul M. Banks

A rather thin group, I included the TEs here and forecasted where they might go.

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Arrelious ‘Rejus’ Benn Declares Early for NFL Draft

Penn St Illinois Football

By Paul M. Banks

“Today, I am announcing that I will forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft,” said Arrelious Benn (who is projected as the #1 or #2 wide receiver on most draft boards). His press conference came at 2 pm CT today. “It’s a great milestone, a great thing to do, and I feel I’m ready to do it.”

Rejus’ press conference included a lot of expressing gratitude, similar to an award acceptance speech.

“Being a student here at the University has been everything I thought it could be. I want to thank Coach Zook for that…I especially want to thank my Mom for being here, and pushing me to be the best that I could be.”

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Is Arrelious Benn Jumping to the NFL?

ArreliousBenn

By Paul M. Banks

NFL Mock Drafts everywhere have University of Illinois junior wide receiver Arrelious “Rejus” Benn as a first round prospect. ESPN’s Draft Czar Mel Kiper rates Benn the #2 wideout in the nation on his list of NFL Draft WR prospects. So he’s certain to forgo his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft, right?

“That’s a decision I will probably make down the road, I’m not sure as to what I’m going to do,” Benn said following the final game of his junior season, a heart-breaking last second 53-52 loss to Fresno. Benn was arcane when probed by the media about his returning for his final year of eligibility: “It doesn’t matter when I go, the NFL is gonna be there. College is still here if I stay and get my degree…whatever I want to do.”

Benn finishes his career fourth in school history in receptions and all-purpose yards, and sixth in receiving yards. He has a first team all conference season, and a thousand yard year on his resume. So on the outside it seems like a no-brainer for him to go, right?

“Yeah…anyone would think that, but I’ve still got to think about it,” Benn replied. One factor Benn’s considering in his equation is his education, and he’s close to completing his degree . “I’m very close, since I graduated high school early to come here (and enroll in the spring and participate in spring practices).”

As most players will tell you, Benn says he stays away from looking at NFL Mock Drafts and NFL draft player and position rankings. “I don’t read it, because it’s placed by numbers. That stuff doesn’t really matter when it comes to being drafted. That’s just college football talk,” Benn said.

It might be safe to say that Benn’s draft stock was higher in August than it is now, as his team’s 3-9 record, the massive struggles the Illini had at the quarterback position (and sometimes in the offense overall) affecting his final season numbers and getting hurt a couple times might push him more towards pursuing that pro career.

“Injuries still happen, and I had small, minor injuries, but I still got in all the snaps in all the games that I could. That’s not something that I’m concerned about. That’s just football, and I expect that I’ve got the type of body that is durable for it.”

NFL scouts will indeed drool over Benn’s physical gifts, which are apparent on sight. And he should have an impressive combine; which would obviously send his stock back up. Another factor of interest is the NFL likely not having a salary cap next year. The collective bargaining agreement has expired, and unless they get a new one in place for 2010, player salaries, including those of draft picks, could skyrocket. So even in the unlikely event that Benn falls out of the first round, the NFL money may be too much to pass up.

In this game of “should I stay or should I go now?” (apologies to the Britpunk band The Clash) Benn also did not indicate which way he was leaning. “Nah, I’m not leaning toward any kind of way right now,” he said.

But either way, expect an answer by the holidays. “I’m finishing up finals, and after that I’ll probably make the decision. You know there’s a lot to think about, and I’ve got a supporting cast behind me, when I come up with a decision, I’m gonna do it.”

What Happened to Arrelious Rejus Benn?

Penn St Illinois Football

By Paul M. Banks

You may have heard of a stellar University of Illinois wide receiver named Arrelious Benn, but the people really close to him call him Rejus. “It’s a nickname that started when I was younger, my father’s nickname was Redus and his real name was Arrelious, so I’m named after him,” Benn said. No word yet if anyone in Rejus’s family is named Kathie Lee (thanks I just got in from Chicago and boy are my arms tired). Rejus had a 3-yd touchdown run on Saturday in the Illini’s amazingly unexpected 38-14 shocker. We haven’t heard his name called much this season.

Benn began the season with a lot of hype, but hasn’t seen the spotlight much this fall because his team has struggled to a 2-6 record. He hasn’t had the best season, but he did begin the 2009 campaign with many preseason accolades including:

•    Maxwell Award Candidate
•    Biletnikoff Award Candidate
•    Named Big Ten’s Fastest Receiver (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 20 player in the nation (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten (The Sporting News)

He still has a chance to turn it around and live up to his billing, as Illinois’ schedule extends much longer this season. The team concludes on December 5th when they host Fresno St. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to go out there in the cold and sweat. Get covered with scarves around my arm, I like just going out there and playing the game, and I hope it snows,” Benn said about the Illini’s unorthodox schedule.

Benn began this season projected as a top ten, maybe even top 5 NFL Draft pick in 2010, but that stock fell as the team’s QB play struggled this season. As a consequence, Benn’s numbers have been anything but impressive.

But Benn’s physical gifts, and his body of work from his first two college seasons make still make him a prime prospect in the eyes of NFL scouts. Rejus has mid 4.4 speed, but still includes speed in his list of what he feels he needs to improve upon; which is pretty much everything: route-running, pass-catching, the whole package as he puts it. So what about his greatest strength? “For me to be able to do all the things I can do, at my size, I’m not your typical receiver,” Rejus answered. And his game has drawn comparisons to one of the best in the business right now. “For me to labeled as the next Anquan Boldin would be a tremendous complement.”

Obviously, this prompts the question of whether he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft next off-season. When asked about all the people who assume he’s done with college after this year, Benn said

“The media just does their job. That decision is for later down the road. I think I would be dishonest if I was thinking about something like that which I’m not, because we have unfinished business here,” Benn said.

The Illini may be Alright this Year

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By Paul M. Banks

This past weekend, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini got some measure of redemption from their week one DISASTER in St. Louis. The Illini responded from their 37-9 thrashing at the hands of Missouri to rout FCS opponent Illinois St. 45-17 in Champaign. Granted it was against a lower tier team predicted to finish near the bottom of their vastly inferior conference, but the Illini did without the services of arguably their three if not best, most important, players: QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, and LB Martez Wilson. Williams, a Chicago native who’s been tutored by another Chicago product and star quarterback, Donovan McNabb contributed just one series before getting hurt. His injury is not supposed to be extremely serious and his return is key, for the Illini to have a legitimate leader.

Williams spoke about what he learned from working with McNabb. “Keep your head…a majority of quarterbacks know that when things start going on around them, people start talking, things start to tank. It’s just the quarterback mentality to let everything go and just stay focused and go from there, once you start paying attention to everything negative going on around you, you kind of lose sight of what you’re trying to do, so I just block everything out and just go,” Williams stated.

His top-flight receiver in a highly heralded corps is Arrelious “Rejus” Benn, a projected top ten pick in the NFL Draft. But his stock is falling because Rejus has been a total non-factor so far. The Illini receivers have been extremely hyped, and if Benn isn’t 100% healthy then other players like Jeff Cumberland, Jarred Fayson, and Tight End Michael Hoohoomanawananuii (have fun with trying to pronounce that) will need to step up big time. illinois

Illini Head Coach Ron Zook also needs to realize who his starting tailback is. It should be Daniel Dufrene, with Jason Ford as a capable back-up, not the other way around. They’ve battled some injuries as well this young season, so they fit right in with the rest of the team.

On the other side of the ball, it comes down to another well-recruited Chicago product, Martez Wilson, who moves over to Middle Linebacker, and needs to be the “quarterback” of the defense.

“The last two, actually the last three years, our Mike linebacker has led the Big Ten in tackles,” Zook said. “I don’t want to put the pressure on him that he’s not doing a good job if he doesn’t lead the Big Ten in tackles, but he’s a guy that a lot of things revolve around him, with our calls and so forth, and it’s going to be important that he has the kind of year that we think he can.” Wilson was also hurt and missed the last game. But Illinois won in impressive fashion, despite all the key missing pieces, which is a good sign. It’s also a good thing they have this week off- to get ready and healthy for mighty Ohio St. on September 26th.

Exclusive with the Nation’s Best WR Arrelious “Rejus” Benn

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The University of Illinois Wide Receiving Corps will be among the best in College Football this year. In this four part series, Paul M. Banks interviews and profiles each of the top four Illini pass catching threats.

Part 4: Arrelious “Rejus” Benn

Talk about saving the best for last- in the final installment of my interview/profiles of the stellar University of Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiving corp, I profile Arrelious ‘Rejus’ Benn. He’s by far the best Illini receiver in a generation. The 6’2”, 214 lb darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate has his share of accolades and hardware including:

•    Maxwell Award Candidate
•    Biletnikoff Award Candidate
•    Preseason Third-Team All-American (Athlon)
•    Preseason First-Team All-Big Ten (Athlon)
•    Named Big Ten’s Fastest Receiver (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 20 player in the nation (The Sporting News)
•    Rated the No. 1 wide receiver in the Big Ten (The Sporting News)
•    2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year
•    2007 Freshman All-American

Almost everyone knows him as Arrelious, but people really close to him call him Rejus. “It’s a nickname that started when I was younger, my father’s nickname was Redus and his real name was Arrelious, so I’m named after him,” Benn said. No word yet if anyone in Rejus’s family is named Kathie Lee (hey hey…thanks I just got in from Champaign-Urbana and boy are my arms tired).

Rejus is from Washington D.C. and prepped at Dunbar, in one of the District’s roughest neighborhoods. He’s come a long way to get here and spoke about the difference between a small town in Central Illinois and the nation’s capital. “It’s been slow, but I like it. D. C. is fast, but it’s always good to get away from the city, and find yourself and just focus on what you need to do…Being in Champaign has really matured me into the person I am and I’ve seen a lot of things from both sides, being in the city and in a place like Champaign.” Despite the distance, his family often makes the trek to see him play. “I always have my mom and younger brothers coming to some games.”dsc026871

Illinois’ schedule will extend much longer this season as bye weeks will be more frequent, and much later, until the regular season concludes with a December 5th home date against Fresno St. “I’m the kind of guy who likes to go out there in the cold and sweat. Get covered with scarves around my arm, I like just going out there and playing the game, and I hope it snows,” Benn said about the Illini’s adjusted schedule, which is an attempt to be much crisper and ready for a bowl game- should they qualify.

Benn has mid 4.4 speed, but still includes speed in his list of what he feels he needs to improve upon; which is pretty much everything: route-running, pass-catching, the whole package as he puts it. So what about his greatest strength? “For me to be able to do all the things I can do, at my size, I’m not your typical receiver,” Rejus answered. And his game has drawn comparisons to one of the best in the business right now. “For me to labeled as the next Anquan Boldin would be a tremendous complement.”dsc02693

And you’ll see Benn this fall on special teams, not just in the offense. “That’s my thing, I like to return kicks. Jarrod Fayson, he’s gonna take care of the punt returns, and I’ll get back there some in case he needs a blow. Mostly though, I’ll be doing kickoffs,”  Rejus said.

Benn currently projects as a top ten, maybe even top 5 NFL Draft pick in 2010, and that stock could rise when you consider how (unlike in all of 2007, and portions of 2008) he no longer has to deal with any nagging injuries. “I think this is the healthiest I’ve been since I’ve been here,” Benn said at Illini Media Day. Obviously, this prompts the question of whether he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft next off-season. When asked about all the people who assume he’s done with college after this year, Benn said

“The media just does their job. All my focus is on September against Missouri. That decision is for later down the road. I think I would be dishonest if I was thinking about something like that which I’m not, because we have unfinished business here.”

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Last year’s 5-7 season, was a devastating disappointment for Benn and the Illini. Following 2007’s 9-4 BCS “Champaign Campaign,” many experts thought Illinois would take the next step forward- or at least remain where they were. “It’s been on our minds since the end of the Northwestern game, it’s been especially on my mind because I was kind of knocked out of that game we missed out on a lot…I wouldn’t say we’re hungry, I’d say we’re starving in terms of going back to a bowl, we had a taste with the Rose Bowl and now we want to know what it feels like to win,” Benn articulated on the program’s big picture before describing the attitude of this year’s squad in training camp “We got a lot of leadership this year, a lot of guys who have stepped up and taken on the role of vocal leaders on the team.”

And the fans are certainly ready for Benn and his teammates to rise. “For Illinois to have not been so good, football wise for a few years, they have a great fan base. Whether we win or lose, our fans are right beside us and I love that.”