The nation’s top junior college recruit is headed to Alabama. The Crimson Tide continued its recruiting hot streak Tuesday as it received a commitment from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College receiver Malik Benson, who chose Alabama over Georgia, LSU, Oregon and Tennessee.
“I picked Alabama because I grew up watching them dominate,” Benson said. “I’ve always said to myself, if I ever get the opportunity to play at Alabama, that’s the place I’m going to play. In my room, I had on my whiteboard to get offered by Alabama.
“I think Alabama is Wide Receiver U. I feel like every year they produce the best receivers and they always have the top dudes. It was a no-brainer. As one of the top JUCO receivers, that’s a place I’ve got to go.”
Benson dominated during his freshman season last year, leading Hutchinson with 43 receptions for 1,229 yards and 11 touchdowns over 11 games. The 6-foot, 185-pound playmaker fits the mold of Alabama’s recent speedy receivers and has clocked a 10.44 time in the 100-meter dash as well as a 21.38 time at 200 meters.
Alabama has produced six NFL draft picks over the past three years and could see that trend continue as Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and Louisville transfer Tyler Harrell are both viewed as potential prospects for next year’s draft. With that in mind, the Crimson Tide made Benson a priority, selling him on the opportunity to provide an instant impact in 2023.
“I think my speed will fit in well over there,” Benson said. “They like guys who can really run. That’s one thing they said about me is that my running ability is so natural. Also, being an older dude coming from JUCO, they said they needed some experience in the receiving unit.
“I’m someone who can come in and play anywhere. They’re going to put me on the outside, on the inside, just use me wherever they need me.”
Benson spent the past month taking official visits to each school in his top five. While Alabama constantly remained in a strong position for his commitment, it received a bit of a scare when he named Tennessee his favorite following a trip to Knoxville on June 10. Despite being briefly enamored by the Volunteers, Benson said his recruitment always brought him back to the Crimson Tide.
“After every visit, I’d feel good about the school,” Benson said. “I’d be like, ‘That’s a good visit, but I’ve still got Bama.’ It was always like that gut feeling, like I knew I was going to go to Alabama. Just talking with the coaches on the phone, I always had a different feeling when I’d get off the phone with them.”
Any chance Tennessee had at Benson’s commitment was snuffed out during a visit to Alabama five days later. While Benson was already sold on the Crimson Tide during his trip to Tuscaloosa, receivers coach Holmon Wiggins applied the finishing touches by setting up a phone call with former first-round picks DeVonta Smith and Jameson Williams.
“That was pretty cool,” Benson said. “I was just asking them why they picked Bama and what separated them from everyone else. They just told me the brotherhood and it’s just a place where the best go. They told me if I wanted to be the best I should go to the best and play against the best.”
Along with hearing from a pair of Crimson Tide greats, Benson was also sold on Alabama by his former Hutchinson teammate Miles Kitselman, who served as one of the hosts on his visit. Benson said he can already see an improvement in his former tight end teammate since he joined the Crimson Tide this summer as a last-minute addition to the 2022 class.
“He says he loves it out there,” Benson said. “He’s from Kansas, too. Going to Hutch with him and being able to see how well things are going for him over there is really cool. He said he loves how the team is and that he knows they are going to compete for a national championship.”
Benson is Alabama’s second wide receiver commit in the 2023 class, joining Cole Adams, who committed to the Crimson Tide last week. Alabama’s class now sits at 11 members, seven of which have come in the past 15 days.
With his commitment out of the way, Benson said he plans to completely shut down his recruitment as he shifts his focus to his sophomore season at Hutchinson and getting ready to join Alabama in the winter.
“I’m 110% locked in,” Benson said. “I’m not taking any more visits. The only visits I’ll be taking are game-day visits to Alabama in the fall. I’m sure some programs are going to still try and call and do what they do, but it’s going to be hard to get an answer from me.”