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Benjamin leaves Middleton football team—again

Posted Jan 11, 2012 by Bill Ward

Updated Jan 11, 2012 at 10:36 PM

Middleton coach Alonzo Ashwood said Wednesday night that as far as he’s concerned, his star player, junior receiver Richard Benjamin has left the program. And no matter what school Benjamin has transferred to, Ashwoood said he won’t take him back, even if Benjamin changes his mind.

“I can tell you this for certain: I am done chasing football players back to Middleton,” Ashwood said. “What hurts is all the time and energy I have given him (Benjamin) but I’ve made up my mind on this. I’m not going to let talent hold me hostage.”

Ashwood said the 6-foot-1, 173-pound Benjamin, one of the county’s most sough-after recruits, is withdrawing from Middleton. Ashwood believes Benjamin has applied for admission to magnet school Tampa Bay Tech, where Benjamin played his freshman year.

TBT coach Jayson Roberts says he has not had contact with Benjamin or his mother. And since Friday marks the end of the current 9-week grading period in Hillsborough County, any student showing up at a new school would likely not apppear until next week.

“If he (Benjamin) shows up, fine,” Roberts said. “But he would first have to apply to the school and be accepted, just like everyone else.”

Benjamin actually applied for admission to TBT last fall, just before the start of the current school year, but without his mother’s permission. As a result, Benjamin returned to Middleton, where last season he made 26 receptions for 453 yards and scored three touchdowns of 80 yards or more. He also produced 501 rushing yards on 58 carries.

But following Middleton’s 0-10 season, rumors began to circulate that Benjamin was headed to any number of county schools, including TBT. Ashwood said he heard those same rumors but each time he talked to him, Benjamin assured Ashwood he was staying at Middleton. Now, Ashwood says he is certain Benjamin is leaving the central Tampa school.

“If they believe the grass is greener somewhere else, there’s nothing you can do about kids leaving and going to another school in this county,” Ashwood said. “All I can do is take care of what I can control and do the best I can for Middleton and for the kids who want to be there.”

Benjamin has offers from just about every major program imaginable, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Miami, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Rutgers, South Florida, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Southern California, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Eastern Kentucky, Florida Atlantic University.

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