February 22nd, 2024

UBC lineman Benedet top-ranked Canadian university player on CFL winter scouting list

By Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press on January 25, 2024.

Theo Benedet wins the J.P. Metras Trophy at the 2023 USports Football Awards in Kingston, Ont., on Thursday, November 23, 2023. The towering six-foot-seven, 305-pound offensive lineman from the University of British Columbia moved up one spot to No. 2 on the CFL Scouting Bureau's winter edition of the top-20 prospects for the 2024 draft. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Reuben Polansky-Shapiro

TORONTO – It’s always good to have options, and Theo Benedet certainly does regarding a pro football career.

The towering six-foot-seven, 305-pound offensive lineman from the University of British Columbia moved up one spot to No. 2 on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s winter edition of the top-20 prospects for the 2024 draft. Isaiah Adams, an offensive lineman at Illinois, tops the list after standing fifth in September.

The CFL released its winter list Thursday.

“It’s pretty cool,” Benedet said. “Obviously there’s a lot of great players on this list whose careers I’ve kind of followed as I’ve progressed through the ranks.

“Just being a CFL fan growing up, to see my name on any list that has to do with the league is pretty cool.”

Benedet, of North Vancouver, B.C., enjoyed another stellar season at UBC, capturing the J.P. Metras Trophy as Canadian university’s fooball’s top down lineman for a second straight year. He became the first offensive lineman to do so and just the third player overall while also securing All-Canadian honours for a second consecutive campaign.

Benedet has been a starter at UBC since his rookie campaign in 2019. Last year, he helped the Thunderbirds make their first Vanier Cup appearance since 2015.

But Benedet’s play hasn’t gone unnoticed south of the border. He participated recently in the College Gridiron Showcase after playing in the ’23 East-West Shrine Bowl.

That could help earn Benedet an NFL opportunity, either as draftee or undrafted free agent. The NFL draft will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.

The date for the CFL draft hasn’t yet been announced but it usually follows the NFL’s.

“To have interest on both sides of the border is perfect at this point,” he said. “No matter what happens I know I’ll have a place to play football next year and that’s really all I want.”

For Benedet, having a shot at a pro career outweighs where it might come.

“That is what’s most important,” he said. “There’s some financial incentives to going down south but other than that, not really.”

Rounding out the top-10 are: Penn State tight end Theo Johnson (Windsor, Ont.); Arizona tight end Tanner McLachlan (Lethbridge, Alta.); Boston College offensive lineman Kyle Hergel (Toronto); Buffalo offensive lineman Gabe Wallace (Salmon Arm, B.C.); Memphis linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arkou (Levis, Que.); Howard offensive lineman Anim Dankwah (Toronto); British Columbia offensive lineman Giovanni Manu (Pitt Meadows, B.C.); and Arkansas State linebacker Melique Straker (Brampton, Ont.).

Quarterback Kurtis Rourke, who topped the fall list, wasn’t included on this one after transferring to Indiana, where he will play this fall.

Nine of the winter list prospects are offensive lineman, with 15 of the 20 players having played in the NCAA. Benedet and Manu were the lone Canadian university players among the first 10 prospects.

Last year, Benedet and Manu anchored a UBC offensive line that allowed just 15 sacks while paving the way for a ground game that averaged 6.8 yards per rush attempt.

The six-foot-five, 320-pound Adams, of Ajax, Ont., has started 25 games over his two seasons as Illinois. Adams, who began his college career at Wilfrid Laurier, served as a team captain in 2023 and was an All-Big Ten Honourable Mention (coaches and media) and Academic All-Big Ten selection.

Adams, Johnson and McLachlan were all invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, although McLachlan won’t participate due to injury.

The six-foot-six, 264-pound Johnson had 34 catches for 341 yards and seven touchdowns last season, all career highs, to secure an honourable mention All-Big Ten selection. Johnson appeared in 45 games over four seasons at Penn State – playing as a true freshman – registering 77 receptions for 938 yards and 12 touchdowns.

McLachlan, a six-foot-five, 245-pound native of Lethbridge, Alta., was Arizona’s third-leading receiver last season with 45 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns, earning AP Second-Team All-Pac 12 and All-Pac 12 honourable mention. He spent two seasons with the Wildcats after starting his college career at Southern Utah and finished with 79 career receptions, the most by a tight end at the school passing former NFL standout Rob Gronkowski (75 catches).

Hergel appeared in 13 games last season for Boston College after serving as a four-year starter at both North Dakota and Texas State. The six-foot-two, 315-pound Toronto native was an All-ACC honourable mention after allowing no sacks and just two quarterback hits in 402 dropbacks. Pro Football Focus gave Hergel a school-best blocking grade of 86.6.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.

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