From the Trenches to a Trenchcoat
Here's a chestnut of football philosophy from freshman offensive line coach Mike Benninger: "Pass blocking is the hardest thing in the world to teach. It's always a losing proposition because given enough time someone's going to get to the quarterback."
In one season, Benninger went from battling it out in the trenches for the Crimson as an offensive guard to the cerebral summit of diagraming plays on the blackboard at Dillon Field House. Currently a second semester senior, Benninger was ineligible to play this season and instead became freshman coach Loyal Park's offensive tactician.
"Park pretty much lets me do what I want," Benninger says. "If we're putting in a new play he'll always call me in and ask me what I think."
In the last few weeks Park's skeleton crew has been joined by sidelined varsity quarterback Tim Davenport. Davenport has been giving pointers to freshmen signal callers Jim Keyte, Mike Jacobs, and Haywood Miller, one of whom will start tomorrow when the yardlings open their season against Navy Prep.
At the end of last year, Benninger approached varsity offensive line coach George Karras about the possibility of becoming a coach. "He suggested I talk to Coach Restic," Benninger recalls, "Restic said he'd like to have me because I know the system and he wouldn't have to teach me anything."
Benninger learned the system the hard way. He played freshman football himself and then sat on the pine for two years behind Kevin McCafferty and Joe Antonellis before getting the starting nod from Restic last season.
In a way, though, the red-headed native of Brunswick, Ohio was getting acclimated to the Crimson system as a schoolboy at St. Ignatius High, where he blocked for future Harvard quarterback Jim Kubacki. His senior year in high school, Benninger and Kubacki were co-captains of a team that was ranked number one in the Clevel and area. That season Benninger was tabbed for all-conference, all-scholastic, and all-Northeastern Ohio honors.
Back in Ohio, Benninger used to watch Kent State football practices and he remembers "All they used to do is block straight ahead day after day. Here at Harvard I was learning things from the time I was a sophomore to when I was a senior."
Benninger, who is small for an offensive guard, had no choice but to become adept at the varied blocking techniques that come with the elaborate shunts and shifts of the multi-flex, Benninger says, "I would prefer to block with our system than with