College Football: Nick DeBenedetti a triple threat for St. Xavier
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media September 26, 2013 6:56PM
Nick DeBenedetti, of St. Xavier | Supplied photo
Joliet Catholic graduates on
opposite sidelines for St. Xavier-
St. Francis game. Dick Goss column: southtownstar.com
Updated: October 28, 2013 7:38AM
With St. Xavier’s top four receivers from 2012 graduating, Nick DeBenedetti quickly has gone from role player to go-to guy in the Cougars’ spread offense.
“It feels great,” he said. “I had to play a supporting role the last two years. I got most of my playing time on special teams. It’s nice to go back to being the main guy like I was in high school.”
DeBenedetti, a junior and an Andrew alum, isn’t worried about being counted on to fill the shoes of some of the best receivers in St. Xavier history.
“That’s definitely something I embrace,” he said. “I don’t feel any pressure. I became good friends with all those guys, and I was of course sad to see them go, but at the same time it was like ‘Now, it’s my time to step up and be a leader.’ ”
With the Cougars heavily counting on a trio of freshmen receivers — Ryan Carroll (Marist), Sean Jones (Homewood-Flossmoor) and Stephen Simms — the leadership aspect is especially important.
“I definitely have to get on the freshmen a lot,” DeBenedetti said. “I basically just tell them not to get lazy, never to get complacent. You have to always keep working hard.”
DeBenedetti has caught 20 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns — team highs in all three categories — over the first three games of the season.
He’s beginning to develop a connection with redshirt freshman quarterback John Rhode. In Rhode’s first career start Saturday, DeBenedetti caught six passes for 64 yards in a 41-10 win over Robert Morris.
“It’s been pretty good so far,” DeBenedetti said. “We just have to keep playing together and learn more and more about each other. We’re still building our relationship. (Senior) Joe Gill started the first game, and me and him already had a great relationship from the last three years. John and I are developing that.”
DeBenedetti is a triple threat for the Cougars, a dangerous kick and punt returner as well as a receiver.
“I love the return game,” he said. “I’ve been doing it my whole life and I’m so happy to have that responsibility again after not doing it the last couple years. I think it’s one thing that separates me from other receivers. I am a natural kick and punt returner.”
Add it all up, and St. Xavier coach Mike Feminis expects the junior to be the next in a line of star receivers for the Cougars.
“I think we’re going to be talking about him in two years as one of the best receivers we’ve ever had here,” Feminis said of DeBenedetti. “Up there with Xavier Torres and Shane Zackery and Mike Maher.
“We’re going to get him the ball as much as possible.”