In my last article we looked at some of the UDFA’s and try-out players that could contribute to the team. Following up with that, I had the chance to get one of my favorites, Gustave “John” Benthin, on the phone.
My first impression is that this is a guy who loves football and is excited for the chance to prove himself. He know’s he has an uphill battle but relishes the challenge.
As I mentioned in the last article Benthin comes from Western Oregon University, a D-2 school in the Great Northwest American Conference (GNAC). He put up very good numbers at his pro-day including 36 reps of 225, 35″ vert and 9’3″ broad jump at 299lbs.
He played against lesser competition in the GNAC but he consistently beat that lesser competition as he should have. John was extremely disruptive in the backfield with double digit career sacks and TFL. He was productive from every position on the defensive line in various fronts.
Now without taking up any more of your time with introductions, here is the interview:
Matt – How did it feel getting a call to come try out for an NFL team coming from a Division 2 school in the GNAC?
John – “It felt good ya know, I’m just thankful for the opportunity. as you know a lot of guys from D-2 don’t get the chance to prove themselves So I’m really thankful for a chance.”
Matt – The Chargers are in need of d-line depth, best qualities you have
John – “I feel like my physical play is the best quality I have. High motor. I like to show that I’m not afraid of contact.”
Matt – I noticed you looked kind of like a bully, like you like to throw offensive linemen around. Is that something you take pride in? that mean streak?
John – “I definitely think thats something I take pride in, I like to go out there and show them I’m here to play and I’m not going to give up no matter how many times they come at me. When they come at me hard, I just come back at them harder and show ’em I’m not stepping down for no one.”
Matt – What are one or two things you think you may need to work on?
John – “The small technical things like my hand speed and movement and more diverse moves overall. I came from small schools so I have never had an opportunity to learn from top of the line coaches so I’m excited to add that to my game.”
Matt – I saw that you wrestled in high school. Do you feel that gives you an advantage on the d-line as far as creating leverage for yourself, etc?
John – “Yeah definitely. I feel like thats one of the ways I know how to get past the offensive linemen is cause all of wrestling is about balance and getting the other guy off balance and how to use my momentum to get through them.”
Matt – Did you get calls from any other teams?
John – “Yeah I had a few other teams call with try-out offers but the Chargers were the first ones to call so I stuck with them.”
Matt – What have you been up too since the season ended?
John – “I’ve just been training and my pro-day was obviously a big day for me so there was a lot of training leading up to that. Basically just a lot of training trying to stay in shape and get better physically.”
Matt – I saw you lined up all over the place on the defensive line at Western Oregon, some at NT some split out at DE, some at DT in a 4 man front. Did you have a favorite position on the line?
John – “Well I just really like to play football and hit guys so I told them ‘wherever you want me to play I’ll play. My favorite spot was probably the 3 or 1 tech but I really like to play everywhere. The 1 tech was probably my favorite because it’s the quickest route to the QB ya know?”
I would like to thank John for his time and invite all of you to wish him luck in his tryout for our Chargers!
The second the Commissioner closes the NFL Draft after “Mr. Irrelevant” is named a feeding frenzy begins. Instead of having to wait for your turn 1 by 1, it is now open season on hundreds of players. A team almost has to have more of a game-plan going into the UDFA period after the draft than they do for the draft itself. With all 32 teams suddenly now fighting over mostly the same players all at the same time, the stakes get a lot higher.
The stakes are also higher for these players. Many of them had hopes of being drafted, others just looking for a chance. No matter what their situation is, Undrafted Free Agents all start with a chip on their shoulder because unlike most of the draftee’s, they are still in a knockdown, drag-out fight for their dreams.
With that said, before draft weekend finished the Chargers had signed 17 UDFA’s and invited 10 additional players to come try-out at mini-camp. So out of these 27 players are there any worth keeping? Any diamonds in the rough that could beat the odds and find a spot?
The Chargers have had pretty good luck with UDFA’s as recently as last year with scrappy SS Jahleel Addae who became a starter on our defense by the end of the season.
Lets take a look at a few names of guys I think might push for a spot on the roster or practice squad.
Alden Darby SS ASU 5’10 194lbs
Darby is a do-it-all safety who isn’t afraid to tackle but also has the range and skill to help in the pass game. In 3 years as a starter for ASU Darby amassed 203 tackles including 8.5 TFL and 2 sacks. In pass defense he grabbed 10 int and 22 PD. He doesn’t have the hard hitting style that Addae fly’s around with, but he is better in pass coverage. He will provide competition for Addae and Brandon Taylor who is coming off injury (again). My Prediction: Practice Squad. With how often our DB’s seem to get injured keeping an extra Safety on the PS would be nice.
Javontee Herndon WR Ark 6’0 207lbs
The Chargers grabbed a few WR’s as UDFA’s and the one I think has the best chance to stick somewhere based purely on physical abilities and experience is Herndon. He is coming from the SEC, which has some very tough defenses, and averaged over 14 YPC for his entire college career. He also showed some nice numbers at his pro-day running a 4.44 in the 40, a 6.87 in the 3-cone and 23 reps of 225. My Prediction: Practice Squad. The Chargers like to keep 2 or 3 WR’s close by since our WR’s are usually made of paper so Herndon gets an offer for the PS.
Tenny Palepoi DL Utah 6’1 1/2″ 298lbs
Tenny only played 2 years at Utah but displayed some playmaking ability while there. After the departure of Star Lotulelei* last year Utah coaches expected a sharp drop off in the quality of play from their defensive line. It didn’t. Utah coaching staff has credited Palepoi’s play with keeping up the level of play after the departure of Lotulelei. As a starter last year Palepoi managed 53 tackles, 9.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks from an interior DL position. He showcased his athleticism at the combine where he looked very fluid in drills and displayed explosion posting a 9’3″ broad jump and 30 1/2″ vertical at 300lbs. My Prediction: Practice Squad. I only say practice squad because the team seems enamored with both Lawrence Guy and Sean Lissemore. However if there is an injury or if the team wants to keep an extra player active on the DL this year he might get the extra spot.
Gustave “John” Benthin DL Western Oregon 6’2 299lbs
Benthin is exactly what the Chargers need on the DL. He has played every position on the DL through his career at Western Oregon. He is extremely explosive (36 reps of 225, 35″ vert and 9’3″ broad jump at 299lbs). And my favorite, he plays like a bully. Just look at some of his highlights from the 2012 season and 2013 season . From the first play in the first video just watch how he bullies offensive linemen when he gets ahold of them. I’d love to see him in short yardage situations as a blocking FB. My Prediction: Same as Palepoi. He is not an UDFA, he just has a try-out invite. I think he gets a contract and will be on the practice squad, if not the active roster due to his versatility. He will have to prove he can maintain that dominance against higher levels of competition since he is coming from the GNAC conference but I think he does.
A few other names to keep your eye out for in practice:
Chris Davis CB Auburn – Lead the SEC in punt return avg last year and ran back the missed field goal at the end of the Iron Bowl.
Alvin Scioneaux OLB Wofford – Very athletic OLB. Undersized at 6’2 225lbs, think a poor man’s Ryan Shazier or Lavonte David. Explosive first step and has the range and football IQ to drop back occasionally. Brings a new level of speed to the LB Corps. Could be a Darryl Gamble type player in the pre-season that you want to root for. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSn11ObdLQs
Colton Underwood OLB Illinois St – Big, athletic LB. In 45 games played he had 44 TFL and 21.5 Sacks. Quick off the edge and disruptive in the backfield. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_pdof5LM_I
Blake Oliaro OLB/DE San Diego University – Local kid who used his length and great moves to amass 30 sacks and 40.5 TFL in his college career. Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUznkXgB-t4