Ben Banogu is making his way through the Combine in Indianapolis this week, impressing scouts and pundits with his athletic feats and performance. And while his record-setting broad jump (11’2”, best ever for a defensive lineman) got most of the pub, it’s been what teams are learning about him off the field that will likely have him sky-rocketing up the draft boards. “What they can’t see on the game film is the kind of person I am off the field. That’s why I’m here, that’s why we have these meetings, that’s why they bring us in to talk to us - they want to know what kind of people we are.”
Ben is absolutely one of the good guys - degree in hand, the All Big 12 first teamer was a leader on the field and in the locker room for the Horned Frogs and gave back to his community off of it. Lightly recruited after suffering an injury late in his high school career, Banogu matriculated to TCU from ULM, playing two years for Gary Patterson. It had a huge impact on him as a player, especially from the mental aspect. “We learned a lot at TCU. Different types of game planning, different types of schemes that we did. It was more complicated than your average game plan.” That extra layer of education has made all the difference for Ben, who credits Coach Patterson with preparing him for the next level, and making the transition to the pro game easier. “It’s just knowing that I am coming in ahead of the curve. Going into the next stages of the process, I am not too worried about the schemes or anything in the NFL in that respect. Just working on my game, just knowing that my technique is the biggest thing I have to work on, I am just excited about that.”
Banogu knows, to some degree, he is fighting an uphill battle when it comes to how scouts view him as a Big 12 defensive prospect. Just last week, Todd McShay played into the old cliche that ‘the Big 12 doesn’t play defense’ on Golic and Wingo, saying “just look at the number of Big 12 defensive players in the NFL” (there are 70, Todd, which is not an insignificant number for a league with nine football teams and also a Kansas). Banogu isn’t worried about the perception - he wants people to look at the facts. “People think the Big 12, we don’t play defense, but all the out of conference games TCU has done fairly well against.” And on the biggest stages, the Frogs have shown out. Just look back to the Peach Bowl. “The last time they played in a major bowl game, in 2014, against Ole Miss, with Bo Wallace and a powerhouse offense - they held them to three points.”
TCU has been, annually, one of the best defensive teams in both the conference and the country. But coming by respect hasn’t always been easy for the Horned Frogs, and that’s just the way they like it, according to one of their stars. “People are going to have what they say, that’s part of it, but I know just as well as everyone else that TCU is the type of school that doesn’t need the hype, they’re just going to go out and do what they need to do. Coach P likes it like that, and the defense is always going to be good as long as Coach P is there.”
Banogu’s future position is a bit cloudy at this point. A star edge rusher for his two seasons at TCU, Ben worked at linebacker during his time at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. He is willing to do whatever teams deem necessary at the next level, and believes he can be successful in any system. “Teams talk to me about every defense - 3-4, 4-3. I know that I’m versatile enough to play both. Whatever they put me in, I’ll be fine with, because I know what kind of player I am. Every team is different, every team sees each layer different, so it’s all about how confident you are in yourself.”
Banogu was projected by most to be a mid to late round selection headed into the combine, but his performance has him moving up into day two territory. As teams get to know him, that becomes more and more likely.