As part of a quickly growing 2021 recruiting class, Michigan landed a commitment from Suffield (Conn.) Academy four-star defensive end Kechaun Bennett late last night. Suffield, who is being recruited to play the Viper position at Michigan, joins the Wolverines just days after U-M picked up commitments from linebackers Junior Colson and Jaydon Hood.
With that trio partnering up with Casey Phinney and Tyler McLaurin, Michigan boasts one of the top linebacker units in the nation. Each guy offers a different skill set and excels in a different area. For Bennett, that area is a relentless pass rush.
One day before committing, Bennett released his top six schools, and Michigan was listed along with Syracuse, Miami, Notre Dame, Cal and Ole Miss. But after identifying those six programs, Bennett spoke with Suffield Academy head coach Drew Gamere, and the two spoke about his college options.
“I knew that he really liked Michigan,” Gamere told Wolverine Digest. “He liked the visit. He likes it for the school that it is as well as the football program. I think on his end, it was just a matter of, we had a conversation and I asked who was at the top of this six. He said Michigan. He didn’t hesitate. I said how we’re in a little different of a climate here, and what do you feel like? He said he’d commit today if it made sense, and I think it just went from there. He was really excited about it as we talked, so he’s really excited. I think it’s a great fit, and he’ll do a great job.”
According to Gamere, Michigan presented a unique opportunity as a school that excels both athletically and scholastically. Bennett echoed these sentiments when discussing why he chose the Wolverines.
“It’s the University of Michigan,” Gamere said. “Who wouldn’t be excited? For him in terms of the process, we had an opportunity to visit, which was great, before all this happened. He loved it there. From our perspective, at least mine as a coach, with a combination of terrific football and also the school that Michigan is, it’s really exciting and great for Keychaun.”
Once Bennett arrives at Michigan, the four-star recruit is going to start off at the Viper spot in order to take advantage of his speed, agility and quickness on the edge, which gels well with what he is asked to do at the high school level.
“I thought he had a great year [in 2019],” Bennett said. “He is versatile, that’s the thing. Going into the year, I just felt like it would help his progression to start him down [on the line] because he’s so long and to start him low. To me, that was kind of what I wanted to do with him this year, and he was great at it. Most schools are recruiting him kind of as an edge, standing up. He certainly has the flexibility to play in space, and we’ve seen him do that. He’s also a guy that, he can put on 30, 40 pounds in the blink of an eye. He’s got that type of frame at 6-4 that he could get his hand down and do it too. He really offers a ton of flexibility in terms of what he can do.”
At the moment, Bennett measures at 6-4 and 220 pounds, so he still has a slender frame that can easily hold more weight without sacrificing his quickness. Bennett mentioned that over the offseason, he has worked on his coverage skills at linebacker in addition to further refining his ability to rush the passer.
“He is an athlete, and he’s naturally really strong,” Gamere said. “He works hard. As good as he is now, he’s definitely got some progressing to do, but his upside is tremendous. Once those coaches, hopefully he will continue to progress next year, but once Coach [Don] Brown gets a hold of him, he’s really going to be terrific.”
One aspect of Bennett’s character that translates from task to task is his work ethic. While he’s continued to work out during the coronavirus quarantine, Bennett also decided to add a job to his athletic and academic pursuits in order to stay busy and help out his family.
“That is one of the things with what’s going on right now is our students are used to being on campus, but he has been at home,” Gamere said. “So, he picked up some work, which some of our students have done, and was balancing that with our classes here still. He is a guy that stays busy. For us, we kind of require it, but he did three sports for us. He played football. He wrestled and turned into a terrific wrestler and also was involved with track and field, so he definitely likes to stay busy.”
As a new competitor in the wrestling realm, Bennett made a quick adjustment to the rigors of spending time on the mat. One added benefit of his multi-sport experience is that the hand fighting and quickness required in wrestling will translate very well to his time as a defensive lineman.
“To be honest, it’s a tough sell on kids these days, particularly if you haven’t done it, and Keychaun had never wrestled,” Gamere said. “He doesn’t love basketball, so I said, ‘why don’t you give this a try?’ He naturally just got better and better. It’s a great sport in terms of all the things football coaches love— speed, quickness, toughness, balance, explosiveness, and it’s really worked out well for him.
“There’s a toughness there that certainly comes into play,” Gamere said. “On my end, I love it, and I would love to have our guys do it. He was willing and really made himself into a terrific wrestler.”
Overall, Bennett is a player that can fit in quite a few different positions on future Michigan defenses, and he will be a boost to the team from a morale standpoint as well. His speed off the edge will help Coach Brown apply pressure, but the team also has the added benefit of dropping him back into coverage as well.
One player, multiple positions and an array of skills— new Michigan commit Kechaun Bennett.
Where do you think Bennett will have the greatest impact? Is he destined to play as a defensive lineman or has Don Brown discovered a new, larger athlete capable of playing Viper? Let us know!