University of Louisville center Mario Benavides has had a long restless summer, but is on the verge of putting it all behind him, and getting back on the field.
Getting ready for his third season as a starter for the Cardinals, Benavides suffered a mysterious injury after the first couple weeks of camp, causing him to miss the most significant amount of time he has missed throughout his career.
At some point in August, Benavides left practice one day feeling normal, but after a restless night of sleep, he woke up with pain in his foot, which has caused him to the first three games. It’s something that doesn’t sit well with the product of Los Fresnos, Texas.
Benavides entered the 2011 campaign having started 24 of 25 contests since taking over as the full-time center in 2009. He missed the Arkansas State game last year to stop his streak of consecutive starts.
After sitting out the last 3-4 weeks of camp and the first three games, Benavides is back at practice this week and is aching to get back to anchoring the offensive line.
“I feel like I’m going to play,” said Benavides. “If there’s no major set back, I don’t see why I won’t play.”
Even with Benavides in the lineup, the Cardinals were going to break in an entirely new offensive line as four senior starters graduated.
However, with Benavides out, the Cardinals had a completely new starting five, anchored by two freshmen. The group had only one career start between them. Now, three games into the season, the unit looks like they are jelling, but might have to make room for their leader.
“The main thing is getting into a rhythm,” Benavides said. “Playing offensive line is the most unnatural human position you can play, just the whole technique of it. So I have to get back in the rhythm get used to being in that football position. I had a rough going the last couple months. They wanted me back quickly so I tried to hurry back. Physically, it doesn’t hurt, but I don’t know where my conditioning is.”
Benavides was on the sidelines for the 24-17 win over Kentucky and saw how the young offensive line opened up holes as the Cardinals recorded 181 yards on the ground. Benavides wants to come right in and keep that going.
“I had one guy yell at me at the UK game that they don’t need me, said Benavides. “He was right, they don’t need me. We are a team. I’m really proud of what those guys have done the last three games. I don’t want to make excuses, but they are young and that was a problem at first. I just don’t want to come in and mess it up.”
Benavides, a two-year starter, might have a new quarterback in the lineup as both Will Stein and Teddy Bridgewater are preparing. Whoever, is behind him, Benavides will be ready to play.
“No, not all,” said Benavides when asked if there was going to be any difference between the two quarterbacks. “Teddy is cool. Both of those guys are cool. I’ve never been around two quarterbacks who have so much confidence. Teddy is mature beyond his years and Will has been that guy since his freshman year. I’m just going to block my butt off for whoever is back there.”