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UND's Bennett continues to show promise on the football field

UND defensive end Mason Bennett wraps up running back John Santiago in Friday's spring game at the High Performance by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Bring up the name Mason Bennett to a member of the UND football coaching staff and you're likely to hear about his promising potential.

The sophomore-to-be defensive end from Winnipeg looks poised for a breakout 2017 season after registering three sacks, a tackle for a loss and a fumble recovery in the Friday's Spring Game.

The 6-foot-4 Bennett has added 20 pounds of weight each of his two seasons on campus, weighing in at 239 pounds last week.

"He has the potential to be a 250-pound kid who can be really tough to block off the edge," UND defensive line coach Jordan Gigli said. "He was 200 pounds out of high school, which is a little light for a defensive end and might have scared most schools away. But his ceiling is through the roof if he continues to improve.

"The misconception is putting on weight slows you down. He's only continuing to get faster and quicker."

Although the buzz about his game is growing, Bennett likely won't be a starter in 2017. At defensive end, UND returns four-year regulars Brandon Dranka and Drew Greely next season. Dranka and Greely were all-Big Sky Conference honorable mentions in 2016 and Dranka was all-Big Sky third team in 2015.

Although Bennett has one more year to wait in the wings to some extent, UND's 3-4 defense has a heavy rotation and the Fighting Hawks split a lot of snaps on the defensive line. As a redshirt freshman, often coming in on passing downs, Bennett had 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2016.

"Mason's best strength is rushing the passer," Gigli said. "That's what we saw on his high school tape and at camp. The ability to turn the corner is what separates good pass rushers, and he has the twitch to go from slow to fast in a short amount of time. It's a God-given ability and hard to find."

Bennett said raising his weight to 239 pounds will allow him to have a better pass-rushing combination of speed and power.

UND head coach Bubba Schweigert has seen that size pay off already.

"He's a bigger player now and more explosive," Schweigert said. "He has much more active hands and is making improvements. We like his future. He had a good, solid year as a freshman, but he's going to get a lot of action next season."

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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