Billy Bennett has recently been rated one of the top (if not the best, says kicking analyst Chris Sailer) kicking prospect in the nation for the class of 2007, but barely received any attention last year. Boston College was one of the first schools to offer Bennett and after visiting the campus last season, the kid from California committed in March.
"Once I learned about it," Bennett said about his visit to Chestnut Hill, "I realized it was really just my dream school. I met with the coaches and the players and really felt accepted there. I loved Boston College and the city of Boston; it has a great social life."
The BC recruiting staff (Jerry Petercuskie in particular, according to Bennett) picked him up before his name exploded on the scene this spring. Bennett, out of Torrey Pines High, said he wasn't heavily recruited last season, but was able to impress the scouts over the past couple of months by showing off his ability at various camps. That resulted in a number of additional offers from some big-time programs (LSU in May), but none of which were able to pull Bennett away from his commitment to the Eagles.
Bennett was looking for the perfect combination of football, academics, and social life – and he found it at BC.
"The players were really nice," Bennett said. "I stayed with Ryan Ohliger, he and his friends made that trip really fun. At the other schools I visited, it seemed like the guys there were more football players than college students."
Eagles fans are getting a big (Bennett's currently 6'2" and 197 pounds), powerful, fundamentally sound kicker who has drawn some generous comparisons.
"Some people have told me I'm like [Sebastian] Janikowski," Bennett said. "I don't like to say that just because he's such an amazing kicker, but he's got a ton of raw power and he's not your stereotypical kicker because such a huge guy – and I'm pretty big, too."
So can Bennett match the Polish Leg when it comes to power?
"I hit a 51-yarder last year, but I've hit from mid-60s in practice," Bennett said. "My hang time is what impressed the scouts the most."
When he settled in Encinitas, California six years ago, Bennett joined a club soccer team and even considered playing professionally. But as he came to realize how good he was at football, he abandoned the round ball for the pigskin. Last year, he finally quit soccer altogether to focus more on his future as a kicker. This fall, with only one sport keeping him busy and the recruiting process long since settled, Bennett is looking forward to having his most enjoyable season of football to date.
"My head coach said that next year I'll just focus on placekicking and kickoffs and not worry about punting. He said he's going to turn me loose and let me go for some records [like most field goals and longest field goal]. I want to play in a couple of all-star games, too."
As Bennett goes for the records, the BC coaching staff has the luxury of sitting back and watching its committed kicking prospect show off his stuff as other schools regret their inaction. Bennett, meanwhile, can prove his worth not only this fall, but for four years after that as an Eagle. The ability to please the fans at BC is an opportunity Bennett relishes.
"I'm working really hard right now," Bennett said, "and trying to be the best next season to show the fans I was a good commitment."