CENTERVILLE, Ohio - When you watch game tape of Michael Bennett playing on the offensive line for Centerville (Ohio) High, it is easy to see why he is considered one of the top players in the state of Ohio and even nationally. But Bennett's future is on the defensive line when he enrolls at Ohio State next fall and the sky could be the limit when he moves across the line.
Regardless of which side of the ball Bennett is on now the U.S. Army All-American Bowl came calling and on Monday morning and presented the 6-foot-3, 275-pounder with his game jersey at a morning assembly at Centerville (Ohio) High School.
"I am really excited to be able to be around the highest of caliber guys," Bennett told Rivals.com about the honor of playing in the national high school talent showcase.
Bennett selected the Buckeyes in May of 2010 over offers from across the nation including Alabama, Southern Cal, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Wisconsin to name a few.
There has been debate among observers as to which side of the ball Bennett should play but Bennett has been adamant that he wants to play defense in college and that is where the Buckeyes will play him. Bennett has been playing offensive line through the whole game for his high school squad and only sees action on about one-third of the defensive snaps.
"Mike really by far is the best offensive lineman I have ever seen in high school so here is what I think is the best offensive lineman I have ever seen, he is going to Ohio State to play defense," Centerville head football coach Ron Ullery said. "It speaks volumes of how good of a football player that he is. His best football is ahead of him because he has never practiced defensive line that much."
Bennett plays in one of the most competitive leagues in the state of Ohio in the GWOC (Greater Western Ohio Conference) and sees many players who are destined for Division I football at the next level but the Army All-American Bowl takes things to another level, a level that Bennett is ready to play at.
"I am going to be playing with the best and I am going to see how good I am at my position," Bennett said. "Right now I might go up against someone who is not an All-American and I don't know how good I could be and how good I am and I can't apply everything."
Centerville High School is no stranger to having top players walk through the hallways. Current NFL'ers (and former Buckeyes) AJ Hawk and Mike Nugent played for the Elks in the past. Bennett's future could be a bright one as well but he is not going to ever be accused of looking too far into the future. Finishing the season and making a run in the Ohio state playoffs are the next tasks at hand, but on Monday he allowed himself to think about the future with the Army All-American Bowl.
"I think it is really exciting," Bennett said. "It gives me more football during the year and it is more national exposure."
Coach Ullery knows that when Bennett can focus solely on defense that he will take to it quickly and it won't take long to excel at the new position.
"When he is full-time on defense he is going to be a very special player," Ullery added. "He is very explosive off of the ball and once he starts using his hands really well, he is so athletic. He is such a special player."
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is in its 11th year and will be played Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, and televised by NBC.