November 25, 2008

Junior might be Cedar Hill's next great one

Cedar Hill (Texas) High School is no stranger to having top rated collegiate prospects roaming the hallways.

Former star Jarvis Humphrey was the 2008 No.1-rated defensive tackle in the state when he signed with Texas last February. The Texas coaching staff is high on Humphrey and he should help the Longhorns next season after red-shirting this year.

2009 offensive lineman Thomas Ashcraft is rated as the No.2 overall prospect at his position in the state of Texas according to Lone Star Recruiting. Ashcraft, who will graduate high school in December, is expected to ink with UT when signing day rolls around.

While most high schools would be satisfied with having one prospect like Humphrey or Ashcraft come through their program, Cedar Hill asks each season who the next "Great One" will be.

Cue the entrance of 2010 linebacker Aaron Benson.

Benson is as impressive of an athlete as you are going to find. The 6-1, 215 junior started for Cedar Hill as a sophomore and before the 2008 season was moved from inside to outside linebacker.

"The coaching staff thought that the move to weak-side outside linebacker would help me utilize my speed more," Benson explained.

The move was a success. The talented junior has put up impressive numbers this season, as he's recorded 83 solo tackles (12 for loss) and 31 assisted tackles, along with six sacks and two interceptions.

As far as his early stature in the recruiting rankings, Lone Star Recruiting has Benson rated as the No.2 linebacker in the state and the No.12 overall player in the 2010 class.

So how does a player of his immense talent react to being a top tier prospect?

"Honestly, it doesn't mean that much," Benson said. "I just want to stay concentrated on playing football."

Even though Benson seems unaffected by recruiting services taking notice of his talents, that's not the case for opposing teams.

The first two rounds of the 2008 playoffs have seen Plano West and Southlake Carroll run a total of two running plays right at Benson.

"Most people run away from him," Cedar Hill Head Coach Joey McGuire said. "Even in the first round against a good rushing team like Plano West, they didn't want to come at him either."
Avoiding Benson is justified, as evidenced by his play midway through the first quarter in the Longhorns second round match-up with traditional power Southlake Carroll. With 7:50 to play in the opening quarter, Dragon quarterback David Piland dropped back to pass and couldn't find a receiver open downfield. Feeling pressure from the Cedar Hill defensive line, Piland scrambled out of the pocket in an attempt to run for the first down.

The end result of that decision found Piland de-cleated by Benson near the Carroll sideline, bringing the fans at Texas Stadium to their feet.

"I think at that moment, Aaron let everyone know that we were in a football game," McGuire said. "That really energized us."

Little did the fans know, the fireworks were just beginning.

With the Longhorns trailing 10-7 at the 5:55 mark in the third quarter, the linebacker changed the momentum of the game for good. Carroll called a rollout pass away from Benson, yet before Piland could attempt the pass, Benson hit him and caused a fumble that Cedar Hill recovered at the Southlake 15-yard line.

"It was a designed blitz," Benson explained. "They came out in the alignment we were looking for, so I came off the edge and was able to get to the quarterback."

The game changing play wasn't lost on his head coach either.

"It was just a huge play, but that's Aaron Benson," Coach McGuire said. "We had to get home on some of those plays (blitzes) today, and he got home in a hurry. That was big."

Benson finished the night with nine tackles, two for loss, and the sack that changed the complexion of the game and led Cedar Hill to its 31-18 win over Southlake Carroll.

Overall, Benson looks just as comfortable dropping back in coverage as he does stepping up to fill against the run. So what position does he expect to play in college?

"Most schools are recruiting me as a linebacker," Benson said.. "I would be open to a position switch (safety) if that is where the school I choose wanted me. But really, position switch hasn't really come up."

With the recruiting of Benson really starting to heat up, does the talented junior linebacker have an interest in Texas?

"My interest level in Texas is very high," said Benson. "I took a visit to Austin earlier this year and watched the Missouri game."

The recent news that defensive coordinator Will Muschamp will eventually replace current head coach Mack Brown in a couple of years didn't hurt the Longhorns' chances either.

"I thought it was great," Benson said. "Coach Muschamp keeps in contact with me the most. He is a nice guy and a very good coach."

LSU offered Benson a scholarship back in September, alerting recruiters across the country to what could be a heated battle for his services.

So where does the Longhorns rank on his list of teams.

"My top three right now would be Texas, Georgia and Miami."

That should be good news to burnt orange followers everywhere because Benson is the real deal.

Most linebackers in high school are somewhat one dimensional with an ability to stop the run, but Benson drops into coverage like a corner and brings down what ever he hits. Insisting he is 6-1, "and a half," Benson has arrived as a legitimate big-time collegiate prospect and just might be Cedar Hills next Great One.

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