Georgia Tech B-back KirVonte Benson is out for the season with a knee injury, coach Paul Johnson said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. Benson suffered the injury in Tech’s 49-38 loss to South Florida on Saturday.
Benson was an All-ACC selection last season after rushing for 1,053 yards in his first season as a starter. Benson, a junior, could apply for a medical hardship waiver and receive an extra season of eligibility in 2020.
Johnson said that Benson will have surgery next week. He said it was not necessarily a tear of the ACL. There was hope for another productive season, recognized in his being named to the watch lists for the Doak Walker Award (top running back) and the Maxwell Award (player of the year).
“I feel terrible for him,” Johnson said, “because he worked hard, but he’ll be back. He’s a strong kid and he’ll work hard. He’s undergone that before. He had it happen in high school, so hopefully he’ll be back.”
Benson tore his ACL in his final season at Marietta High School. Benson was a surprise last season, taking over for the No. 1 job after Dedrick Mills was dismissed from the team. Despite never having played a snap at B-back as a redshirt freshman, Benson collected five 100-yard games last season, showing power to break tackles with speed and agility to bounce runs to the outside for big gains.
Redshirt freshman Jordan Mason will most likely be elevated into the starting position with Jerry Howard as his backup. Mason was the third-string B-back going into the preseason behind Benson and Howard but moved past Howard with strong play in camp. Johnson said that freshman Christian Malloy may also play as the third-string B-back, depending on the circumstances.
“Well, I said at the start that we had depth there and we’re going to find out,” Johnson said.
The Yellow Jackets open their ACC slate at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Pittsburgh.
Mason has played well in two games, having gained 180 yards with a touchdown on 24 carries. He started the season opener against Alcorn State when Benson was held out for the first quarter for a violation of team rules and then played most of the final three quarters against USF after Benson’s injury.
“He’s played well when he’s been in there,” Johnson said of Mason. “I think he’ll just get better.”
Howard gained considerable experience last season as a freshman, playing nine games and rushing 23 times for 175 yards as the backup to Benson.
Benson appeared to suffer the injury on his fifth and final carry of the USF game. Benson took a pitch from quarterback TaQuon Marshall and then stepped awkwardly with his left foot as he ran upfield. He underwent an MRI Monday, with the results returned Tuesday morning.