TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Because he looks like a tight end and runs like a tailback, and because he already has compiled a healthy backlog of practice field mythology that's told and retold by teammates, the hype for Kelvin Benjamin will never completely dissipate. His potential is so high that the dearth of production might never completely overwhelm it.
Reality for Florida State's most intriguing pass-catcher has been far different than the legend, however, even as he vies for a starting job in his second spring with the Seminoles. And the reviews from coaches are tepid.
"Solid," Jimbo Fisher said of Benjamin's spring performance. "He's OK."
For a player who spent last spring racking up platitudes generally reserved for superheroes, this is not the progress Florida State fans had hoped to see, and Benjamin is all too aware that he hasn't lived up to the promise.
"I think I showed a little glimpse here and there, but overall I could've done way better," he said. "Once you get all the hype, there's basically nowhere from there but down."
That's one way of looking at it. Another might be that, after two years in Tallahassee with just 30 catches under his belt, there's nowhere for the redshirt sophomore to go but up. After all, there were those glimpses.
Benjamin never cracked the starting lineup in 2012, but he did make an impression. He found his footing in the second half of FSU's opener and finished the game with 50 yards. A week later, he hauled in two touchdown receptions against Savannah State. By midseason, he was perhaps the Seminoles' best big-play target, catching 19 passes for 327 yards. Fans sensed all that potential might finally be tapped, and they begged Fisher to make Benjamin a bigger part of the offense -- particularly along the goal line.
They got their wish, but Benjamin didn't deliver. In the final seven games of 2012, he caught just 11 passes and one touchdown.
The problem, he said, was focus.
"I wasn't ready when my name was called," Benjamin said. "I didn't start; we had Rodney [Smith] in front of me, and I'd come in the second half for my first catch and my focus wasn't there, my focus wasn't on the game anymore."
Benjamin suggested the limited number of balls thrown his way made it tough to keep his mind in the game or get a feel for the football, but the numbers don't necessarily support the theory.
Only Smith and Rashad Greene were targeted more often in 2012 than Benjamin, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and while Benjamin found some early success in a limited role (19 catches on 28 targets in his first seven games), he fell apart in the latter half of the year with roughly the same number of targets (11 catches on 26 attempts).
A few big plays -- including a 64-yard touchdown that came on a short pass -- helped hide the ugly numbers a bit, but overall no FSU receiver with at least 10 targets hauled in a lower percentage of the balls thrown his way. Benjamin caught 20 percent fewer than the younger, smaller Greene.
Without question, Benjamin's problems began with lackluster route running and a lack of fight for jump balls, but those issues all began with focus.
"Only thing I would say is just stay in the whole season and don't let little things distract you," Greene said of Benjamin's performance. "Have your main focus on football and what you've got to do to help the team. Not saying anything bad happened, but that was his first year playing collegiate football, so you've just got to stay in it and be positive, because everything's not going to happen the way you want it to."
That's a lesson Benjamin insists he has learned.
All that hype fed into his expectations, too. He entered last season aiming for an All-ACC nod, for a 1,000-yard season, for all the accolades that so many had predicted. But game days were nothing like the practice field where he'd built his reputation, and failure can be its own distraction.
"I'm more comfortable in practice. In practice, you'll touch the ball 20-something times," Benjamin said. "It's natural to catch the ball in practice. Once you're in a game, you've only got one catch on the game, and then your name gets called, it's harder."
It's a nice thought, but Benjamin has never had a problem promising the moon. The difference now is that coaches and fans seem far more willing to reserve judgment until they've seen reality.
Smith is gone now, and that leaves a gaping void for a tall, physical receiver on Florida State's offense, but Fisher isn't promising anything.
"If you've got him, that's great, but if you don't, you play with the ones you've got, and there's a lot of things we can do," Fisher said. "We're going to play the best guys that deserve to play. I'm not saying he's not one of them, but we've got some other really good players."
Benjamin is one of them -- perhaps the best of them. That potential remains as intriguing as ever. That's the luxury of a 6-foot-5 frame and blazing speed.
But Benjamin isn't making promises right now. He has been defined by promise for too long.
"That's why I'm trying to take it one day at a time -- play by play actually," Benjamin said. "If I end up starting and on the field more, I'll have a successful season."