A year older and a year wiser, Alejandro Bennifield stepped onto Scrappy Moore Field with an added confidence before Saturday's first scrimmage of the spring season.
With three-year starter Jacob Huesman held out by the coaching staff, the sophomore backup took the first-team reps and was solid with his reads and throws, completing half of his 16 passes for 117 yards and two scores. He then added another scoring toss to redshirt freshman Bingo Morton during a situational red-zone drill.
On his first touchdown pass, Bennifield took off left, sprinting towards the end zone and causing two defenders to react before lofting a pass to a wide-open Malcolm Colvin.
"That's a play that's instinctive," UTC coach Russ Huesman said. "Those are plays that you can't coach. You can hope they do them naturally, and he did that."
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound lefty has been in a competition with classmate Tyler Roberson to be the primary backup to Jacob Huesman, the two-time defending conference Offensive Player of the Year. Bennifield has been taking the second-team reps so far in spring practice to go along with gaining a lot of reps as the team's main punter currently.
On Saturday, he showed plenty of zip in his passes, and his 43-yard touchdown strike to C.J. Board on the first team's second possession was right on the money.
"I feel like I took control of the offense better," he said. "I've learned the plays better, my speed's better, I'm more accurate, and the guys trust me more this year. The offensive line blocked well, the receivers were running their routes on team, and everything just clicked together.
"I just put the ball where it needed to be."
He admitted that he had a couple of missed reads, but "the offensive line helped me out."
"You couldn't really tell from the side, but internally I know I messed up on a couple of things," he said. "I just have to get better -- I'm always looking to get better after every practice. I look at the film, see what I did wrong and try to correct the next time out."
The Mocs return to practice this afternoon at 3:45.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.