LOGAN — Utah State linebacker Deshon Benton couldn't have finished up spring drills any better last year.

"I proved myself during spring. I earned a good role on the team to get a lot of playing time," said the 5-foot-10, 222-pounder.

When he came back to begin summer workouts last June, however, he was told he wasn't eligible.

Benton, who transferred to Utah State from Modesto Junior College, was a half-credit shy of eligibility — what made it hurt even more was it was a P.E. credit.

"I could have taken Pilates and been able to play," he said. "I wasn't aware of it. I'm just a student and I'm doing what I'm told. People tell me what classes to take and I take them. It just so happened I needed a half-credit more."

He took the news quite hard.

"It was devastating because as an athlete and as a competitor, you want to be officially on the team," he said. "It was disheartening sometimes to go to the sites (of games) and your name is on the roster."

He explored other options, but his drive to play Division I football won out, and he stayed in Logan.

"I adapted to my role and took it with pride," he said. "I was able to take part in practices, but I had to run scout (team). I took pride in that because I knew it got my teammates ready. Since I wanted to be a part of the team, I needed to do what I needed to do to get the team ready."

He was awarded for that by being named the Aggies' Defensive Scout Team MVP.

Now he's ready to prove on the field what he wanted to do last year.

To help his situation, De'von Hall, who started at linebacker for three years, was moved to safety, opening a spot for Benton.

"I know I can step in and be a leader at the linebacker position," he said.

He will start at outside linebacker and work side-by-side with Jake Hutton and Paul Igboeli.

"I want to do whatever it takes to make this team win," he said.

Benton, who began his football career at Division I-AA University of San Diego, led Modesto Junior College with 52 tackles in 10 games as a sophomore in 2006. He also has three tackles for loss, two interceptions and two pass break-ups. One of his interceptions he returned for a touchdown.

At Downey High School, he was a two-time league MVP and four-time team MVP.

Although he is just 5-11, he uses his strength and speed to make up for his lack of height.

"I pack a mighty punch with my size," he said. "I can take on blocks and free up some other people, and that's an advantage."

Benton knows the task at hand is a big one for the Utah State defense, which allowed 33 points and 450 yards per game last season.

"When it's time to get off the field, we need to get off," he said, noting the Aggies' lack of ability to stop their opponents on third down.

"We (also) need to convert some turnovers and fumbles on the ground during the year, and we didn't convert. We've got to get those loose balls."

Benton will be listed as a senior on the roster, but he can make an appeal to the NCAA to get last year back, and he intends on doing that.

Spring drills continue for the Aggies today and Friday, and then they will conclude with practices next week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and a scrimmage on Friday.

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