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Top MAC Football Players of 2013: #49 Shamari Benton, Central Michigan LB

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After a breakout junior year, the senior linebacker comes into 2013 as a preseason 1st Team All-MAC Selection.

CMU Chippewas Athletics

Stop us if you've heard this before, but next on our list is a Central Michigan linebacker who didn't put up the flashiest stats, but was as solid as they come last season, and racked up an impressive tackles total. This time, it's the senior linebacker from Detroit, Shamari Benton.

Benton, much like his teammate and #57 on our list, Justin Cherocci, was put into a starting role for the first time in 2012, and blossomed into one of the leading tacklers in the conference. After totaling just 70 tackles his first two seasons in maroon and gold, Benton broke out last year with 126, good for second on the team behind Cherocci, and seventh in the MAC. He had a team leading 54 solo tackles, and a team best two fumble recoveries, to go along with four passes defended, and one interception.

Benton came to the Chippewas from famed Brother Rice High School, where he was one of the state of Michigan's top 50 recruits. At Brother Rice, he was a three year starter, and a team captain. He was redshirted during his first year at CMU.

With both Benton and Cherocci back starting at linebacker for CMU, they appear to have one of the stronger linebacking corps in the MAC, and the expectations are particularly high for Benton as the season draws closer. He has been named to Phil Steele's Preseason All-MAC First Team, and with the departure of safety Jahleel Addae, he could very well be the defensive captain for the 2013 season.

The Chippewas will look for more of the same from Benton in the 2013 season, plenty of help in the run game, and a bunch of solo tackles, but he is the best pass defender the linebackers have, so look for a couple interceptions, and a few pass breakups. Benton is going to be near the ball often, evidence in his team leading fumble recoveries last year, and if he is made a team captain like I expect, he could have an even better senior season. At just six foot and 223 pounds, Benton isn't the biggest linebacker in the world, but he certainly has big expectations on his shoulders heading into his senior year.