AUSTIN, Texas - For the second time in five days, The University of Texas football program has received great news with one of its juniors considered as potential NFL draft picks declaring they would return to the Forty Acres for their senior year. This time it was junior tailback Cedric Benson, the only NCAA Division I-A back who has rushed for 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. His announcement came after junior linebacker Derrick Johnson made the same declaration last Thursday (Jan. 8). Benson, like Johnson, followed in the footsteps of a number of high profile juniors that have elected to stay in school under head coach Mack Brown. RB Ricky Williams (1998), DT Casey Hampton (2000), OT Leonard Davis (2000), CB Quentin Jammer (2001) and OT Mike Williams (2001) all became first-round draft picks after announcing they'd return for their final seasons, and WR Roy Williams enters the 2004 NFL Draft as one of the draft's top prospects.
"I have a lot of things I'd still like to accomplish at Texas, but the most important one is to win more games and try to help the team win a Big 12 and National Championship," Benson said. "I'd also like to prove that we can be one of the most explosive offenses out there and continue my development into hopefully one of the best running backs in the country. If that means that my teammates help me make a run at any national honors like the Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back) or Heisman Trophy, that will be icing on the cake.
"It's also really important to me that I continue to work toward my degree and grow as a person. There is no better place to do that than here with my teammates. The city of Austin, the state of Texas, The University and all of our great fans have been wonderful to me, and I can't imagine missing out on my senior year playing for them. I'm looking forward to being out there in my Texas jersey with all of the guys for one more year."
Benson, a consensus first-team All-Big pick in 2003, is coming off a junior season when he ranked 13th nationally in rushing (113.3 ypg/1,360 yards/No. 5 on the UT single-season list) and second (1st Big 12) in scoring (11.2 ppg). His 21 rushing TDs in 2003 were the third-most in a season in UT history, trailing only Ricky Williams' school-best 27 in 1998 and 25 in 1997. Benson's 128 points are the third-most in a season on UT record. Of his 1,360 rushing yards as a junior, 756 (55.6%) came after initial contact. He rushed for 1,002 yards and 14 TDs on 168 carries (6.0 ypc) in his final six games of the season, and his six 100-yard rushing games in 2003 rank eighth on the UT season chart.
Benson, twice named Texas' Most Valuable Offensive Player and just the third player in Longhorn history to post three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons (Ricky Williams, 1995-98 and Chris Gilbert, 1996-68, are the others), has rushed for 3,706 yards (No. 3 on the UT all-time list) and 45 TDs (No. 2 on the UT career chart) on 786 carries (4.7 ypc) in three seasons. His yardage total trails only Longhorn Heisman Trophy winners Ricky Williams (6,279) and Earl Campbell (4,443), while his rushing TD mark ranks behind just Williams (72) on the UT career list. When you add in a pair of TD receptions, Benson's 47 career total TDs rank second to Williams' 75 on the UT career chart. His 15 career 100-yard rushing games rank fourth on the UT all-time list and his three career 200-yard rushing games are tied for the third most on Longhorn record. Benson's 278 career points rank fifth on the Longhorn career chart and trail only Williams (452) among non-kickers. His 4,152 all-purpose yards rank sixth on the UT all-time list. Of Benson's 3,706 career rushing yards, 2,046 (55.2%) have come after contact.
"Just like we were with Derrick (Johnson) a few days ago, we're obviously thrilled that Cedirc has decided to return for his senior year," said Mack Brown. "The University of Texas has a rich history of great running backs and in just three seasons, Cedric already has his name listed among them. He's definitely proven worthy of all of the recognition he received as one of the state's all-time great high school running backs and is certainly one of the best running backs I've been around. With another year of development he has a chance to be one of the nation's best backs and we are looking forward to having him back as one of the leaders of our team in 2004."
Despite battling injuries, Benson rushed for 1,293 yards (No. 7 on the UT single-season chart) and 12 TDs on 305 carries as a sophomore. He earned consensus second-team All-Big 12 honors that year. As a true freshman, Benson became Texas' first-ever freshman 1,000-yard rusher with 1,053 yards and a UT freshman-record 12 TDs on 223 carries. He set or tied 13 Longhorn freshman records en route to Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and became the first player in school history to claim the Horns' Offensive MVP award as a freshman. Benson also was tabbed a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News and earned consensus second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2001.
Texas has posted a 32-7 record in Benson's three seasons in Austin. The Horns have ranked among the nation's final Top 12 in each of his three seasons and ranked eighth nationally in rushing (232.5 ypg) last season. UT enters 2004 as one of only five programs that has posted at least 10 wins in each of the last three years. Benson joins a group of 17 returning starters (8 offense/7 defense/2 specialist) next season.