Musburger says Benn ripe for NFL



By Daniel Johnson

During ABC’s Saturday night broadcast of Illinois’ 38-24 loss to Penn State, broadcaster Brent Musburger said receiver Arrelious Benn is “just on loan from the NFL.”

While Illini fans may not like the idea of losing their best, and at times only offensive weapon to the NFL, Benn seems more than poised for the jump after college.

Even though he was routinely double, and sometimes triple teamed with a safety, Benn still managed to lead both squads in receiving Saturday with 110 yards – on all of four catches.

“I just had to step up and make plays,” Benn said of his two-touchdown performance. “That’s why I came here, and that’s the kind of player that I am.”

Since coming to Illinois as one of the first in a wave of blue chip recruits brought in by head coach Ron Zook, Benn has lived up to his five-star status, playing hurt most of last year and still being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. As evidenced by his game against Penn State, the sophomore is making catches even the officials don’t think are touchdowns.

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“I knew I was in,” Benn said about his first touchdown catch against Penn State, which had to be reviewed. “I told the ref that when I came down that it was a touchdown, but he wouldn’t listen. I was just trying to tell him the whole way back to the huddle.”

The second touchdown was reminiscent of his reception in last year’s match up with Penn State, with multiple defenders trying unsuccessfully to bring him down en route to the end zone.

“That’s the type of player I am,” Benn said. “A run-after-catch type of guy, overpower them. I kind of go with the philosophy that I don’t believe in one person tackling me.”

The Dunbar High School product is happy with how the offense performed as a whole, but knows if the team was able to avoid pointless mistakes, the Illini wouldn’t have lost.

“Everything that we did offensively worked,” Benn said. “We put ourselves in a hole with penalties and the turnovers, that was the only thing. We should have came out of the game with a win.”

Receiving corps teammate Michael Hoomanawanui has had the pleasure of seeing Benn mature very closely over roughly the past two years. What has impressed Hoomanawanui the most is Benn’s ability to read defenses so well early on in his career.

“Rejus is an unbelievable athlete, especially only being a sophomore,” Hoomanawanui said. “I think he’s taken the learning curve of the position to another level. Breaking things down, defenses, coverages; I think that’s been the biggest thing for him. He’s understanding routes and running like everyone else has had to do, but he’s definitely ahead of the game … he’s already such an asset to our team and he’s only going to improve.”

Improvement and bigger things seem inevitable for Benn. He understands his ability, he knows what he is capable of and is confident about his future.

Hearing other people tell him the same is just a bonus.

“That’s pretty big for Brent Musburger to say that type of thing,” Benn said. “He’s been out watching college games and seeing a lot of players. For him to say that kind of thing about me is pretty big.”