Sometimes football players just stand out.
It might come from attitude. It might come from watching what they do on the field.
Even casual observers will notice both from University of Akron freshman wide receiver Mykel Traylor-Bennett. Follow him using the Vine smartphone app and you’ll learn that he hit the field with starting quarterback Kyle Pohl almost from the day he arrived at UA.
See how he works on the field and there’s little doubt the attitude transfers. Misses prove rare in drills and scrimmages. When they happen, Traylor-Bennett often beats himself up before anyone else.
But Traylor-Bennett has received a little work with first-teamers and all the work with the second team. He’s gradually gaining the confidence of the coaching staff, including coach Terry Bowden and offensive coordinator A.J. Milwee. Milwee, in fact, showed confidence in the 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver from Reynoldsburg when he ran a short pattern for him at the goal line that Traylor-Bennett caught for a touchdown, the perfect capper to a practice session in which he also scored on a 35-yard touchdown catch.
The Beacon Journal caught up with Traylor-Bennett after Monday’s practice. It’s easy to see why he’s been successful as an athlete. He comes across as confident and humble, walking a perfect balance between the two.
Q: What’s this experience been like for you so far?
A: I realized that it’s all execution. You have to go hard every play, and as a freshman I can’t take any plays off and do everything right. I’m still learning how to read coverages as a wideout. I’m just going to keep going every day and get more experience at what I do.
Q: How is it different from high school?
A: With high school, with the defense, the corners know what they are doing [but] in college every corner knows how to play defense, knows how to press. In high school, I could do one move and that corner would fly. Now it’s all about technique, using your hands and accelerating on your routes.
Q: Were you a big fish in a little pond?
A: You could say that. But in high school I was also one of the biggest ones on the field. If you look at my highlight tape all you see is just fades and posts. I was just using my athletic ability to dominate.
Q: You were using your size, but do you think your speed is underestimated?
A: If you look at me, you’d probably think I was slow, but I run a 4.48.
Q: What have you done to adjust to all of this?
A: I’ve been watching a lot of film, learning how to run certain routes to get open against certain defenses. It’s not just about running the routes and knowing the plays based on the defense so you can get open for the quarterback.
Q: You arrived in June and began working on your own right away. What’s your motivation for that?
A: My daughter and feeding my family, but I knew as a freshman if I wanted to play early I have to work harder than others and that’s what I tell myself every day to work harder than everybody else.
Q: I take it you view this as a means to an end? What are your goals?
A: The goal is to take it to the top [of the Mid-American Conference] then take it to the next level and play in the NFL as long as possible and make sure my family is good.
Q: Your recruiting process was interesting. You committed to Cincinnati; what was your reaction when they pulled your scholarship?
A: They didn’t pull it. I decommitted before they told me anything. Because when I was talking to them, they weren’t sure. So I said let me go. Let me go and decommit and find somewhere I’m wanted. I didn’t want to go to a school where I’m not wanted or where they would have taken me because they couldn’t find someone else. Out of all the offers I had, only MAC schools were left. It was Akron, Kent, Bowling Green. Akron’s the place for me and I’m happy to be here.
Q: But you then committed to Kent. What happened there?
A: Kent was just something to have under my belt because I didn’t know what was going to go down because it was close to signing day. They were talking to me the most. That was going to be my choice, but I came to Akron. The campus is beautiful. It’s a great coaching corps. I felt like I was wanted more here and I felt I made the right decision.
Q: Where does the work ethic come from?
A: Ever since I was little, my dad said that when you start something, you have to finish. I started this at 6, I’m not going to stop until I get to the top and even when I do get there, I’m not going to finish then. I don’t like anything given to me. I like to work for mine.
Q: What are your goals for this season?
A: To keep learning. Hopefully start [by] midseason. Learn as much as possible and contribute to the team this year, so we can have a winning team.
Q: It looks as if you’ve made that two-deep wide receiver rotation.
A: Yes, sir. I’m not being greedy. I’m not complaining about where I am at. I understand that I’m still learning. The other receivers have more experience reading coverages and stuff. I’m just going to keep doing my job, catching everything and I think things will play out for me.
Q: One coach said that he wouldn’t have run that play that you scored from 2 yards out for any other receiver in last Saturday’s scrimmage. What do you say? What do you think?
A: It makes me feel good. It makes me know that he sees that I’m learning and to hear that just gives me more motivation. If he’s coming to me early now and I’ve only learned a little bit, it’s really going to be great to see what he does when I have this offense in hand and I know what I’m doing. It makes me excited to know that he’s showing confidence early.
Offensive line moves
It looks as if Florida State transfer Henry Orelus will open the season starting at right guard. Also Pitt transfer Zanel Demhasaj, a 6-foot-6, 331-pound lineman, is working out with the first team at right tackle.
MAC announces new bowl
The MAC will team with ESPN for the Camellia Bowl, a postseason game set for play in 2014 in Montgomery, Ala., and feature an opponent from the Sun Belt Conference. It will air either on ESPN or ESPN2.
George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Zips blog at http://www.ohio.com/zips. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.