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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

By Sammy Batten

No. 1 target Benkert makes the pledge

Star QB keen on spread offense and "breaking records"


By Sammy Batten
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Kurt Benkert has been touted for quarterback glory since he was 11 years olds.

Benkert's skills were first noticed at that age when he quarterbacked the Fort Myers (FL) Firecats to a third place finish in the national Pop Warner playoffs. He also became an early YouTube sensation when a video showed him tossing a game-winning touchdown pass from his own 13-yard line on fourth down as time expired to propel the Firecats to a dramatic victory.

Article continues below the following YouTube video.

Video of Kurt Benkert's 87-yard scoring pass that lifted the Fort Myers Firecats to victory over the Lehigh Raiders in a key Pop Warner game during the 2006 season:

“That was definitely the year people got tipped off about me and my name started getting out there,'' said Benkert, now 16 and a rising senior at Island Coast High School in Cape Coral, FL. Benkert, who turns 17 next month, transferred to Island Coast back in January from nearby Cape Coral High.

East Carolina jumped on the Benkert bandwagon last spring after he completed 189 of 367 passes for 2,771 yards and 25 touchdowns while leading Cape Coral to a 7-5 finish. ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley extended a scholarship offer to the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder and made him the Pirates' top quarterback priority.

The latter was a major reason Benkert gave a verbal commitment to ECU last Sunday.

“They kept emphasizing to me that I was the guy they wanted and they weren't going to recruit any other quarterbacks until I gave them a 'No,''' Benkert said. “It's hard to turn someone down when you are their No. 1 priority.''

The pledge fulfilled a major objective for the Pirates in recruiting for the Class of 2013. ECU lost last year's starter, Dominique Davis, to graduation and Brad Wornick will follow in his footsteps after the 2012 season. That will leave the Pirates with three scholarship quarterbacks in junior Rio Johnson, sophomore Shane Carden and redshirt freshman Cody Keith.

Central Florida, Marshall, South Alabama, South Florida and Western Kentucky had also offered Benkert, and N.C. State was also showing interest.

Riley convinced Benkert he could thrive in ECU's spread offense, even though he's regarded as a pro-style quarterback.

“At first I was looking for a pro-style offense,'' Benkert said. “But the more I looked at them (ECU) and talked to Coach Riley, I realized it would be fun playing in that type of offense and breaking records.''

Attending ECU will take Benkert back up the East coast closer to his birthplace, Baltimore, MD. It was while living in Baltimore that Benkert's football career began a year early at age four. He said his parents enrolled him in school a year earlier than most just so he could play for the school's football team.

Kurt was playing both quarterback and linebacker when the Benkerts moved to Florida for his third-grade year. He continued playing both ways until the sixth grade when his father suggested he focus on one position.

“He told me to pick one,'' Benkert said. “I kind of liked the whole idea of being in charge with everything, so I stuck with quarterback. My seventh grade year our Pop Warner team won the state championship and went to the nationals.''

A year later, Benkert was back in Baltimore where he led the Perry Hall Gators to a state recreation football championship.

Football and academics earned Benkert a scholarship to Loyola Blakefield, a prestigious all-boys school in Towson. He spent two seasons playing junior varsity football there before Benkert asked his parents to make another change.

“Things were going OK, but I just wasn't feeling it,'' Benkert said. “It wasn't my idea of what high school should be — a private school with all guys. So I told my parents I wasn't enjoying it, and we came back to Florida.''

Benkert decided to make one more move in January by transferring to Island Coast, where he'd continued to mature mentally and physically.

“When I was a sophomore I was like 6-1 and 160 or 165 pounds,'' Benkert said. “By my junior year I was 6-3, 187. This spring, when I got over to Island Coast, I've gotten up to 208.''

Island Coast runs a spread offense similar to ECU's in which Benkert expects to pass “60 or 70 percent of the time.'' Benkert said he'll bring that knowledge of the passing game, a strong arm and an intense will to win to East Carolina.

“Whenever I'm on the field I believe I have a chance to win,'' he said. “I never count my team out. I believe that's the same attitude the coaching staff at East Carolina has.''

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07/03/2012 10:37:14 PM


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