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Pirates take a Knee to the Gut…but Remember, We Don’t Know what We Don’t Know

August has delivered a fall football camp roller-coaster ride for most ECU Pirates fans, stretching from a dismal team scrimmage (offensively) on August 15th to the naming of a new quarterback on the 19th, to that new QB having waterboy7a knock out second scrimmage on the 22nd to today’s news that starting QB Kurt Benkurt (RS-SO) who had groomed himself – quite ably – to step into the huge shoes vacated by record-setting QB Shane Carden has been lost for the season to an ACL tear in his right knee.

It has been a grind of a two-week span leading up to a Pirate fan’s favorite time of the year, no doubt, but it is not the end of the world (ECU football world that is) for anyone.

Out for season...Kurt Benkert will begin working toward 2016-17 season.
Out for season…Kurt Benkert will begin working toward 2016-17 season.

To follow social media, that roller coaster conjures up those prolific words from one of South Central Louisiana State’s big fans…“Oh No! We suck again!”

Losing KB for the season, this close to the opener, hurts, no doubt, but it likely isn’t the catastrophic blow it may appear to be. No disrespect to KB – he has all the markings of a future star, all of which will be in the battle for the job next season. But, having a near three-year starter graduate last season put the Pirates at a juncture where we all simply don’t know what we don’t know.

KB has all the measurables that the Captain didn’t have and was appearing to surge forward in the area of leadership (his post-injury tweet was evidence of this) and buy-in from his teammates. But we have little to go on to know – with any certainty – that his proficiency would carry the offense this season.

A good bet, probably…but we simply do not know what we just lost. That story will unfold in 2016 when he is back in harness. Today, the narrative for this season, we learned, will be written by another QB.

Competition is now open again.

Transfer Blake Kemp is likely to assume top spot on depth chart.
Transfer Blake Kemp is likely to assume top spot on depth chart.
Cody Keith is back from injury and vying for the job.
Cody Keith is back from injury and vying for the job.

This coaching staff has made a point of building competitive depth and while QB recruitment has been a thorn in the side of the program over the last couple of years, we aren’t without quality talent competing for the new vacancy. An injury to Cody Keith could be seen as hurting as much as KB’s injury this week. Keith had and still has potential…he knows the system in detail and he is healthy again. Equally, Blake Kemp has been in the system a year and battled close enough in the competition to delay the naming of a starter till just last week. And, he has a career to date built on being overlooked despite extremely high productivity. He has been a winner everywhere he has gone. He wasn’t a distant second battle for the job this fall.

In a previous post here, I broke down the competition for QB going into this season and felt then that Kemp (here is video on our likely new starter) would push KB and that is how it went in camp. And Keith, IMO, is not a bad back-up option either. In Kemp you get a gunslinger whose history of winning and his unpredictable play-making may conjure up some comparisons to the Captain. He finds ways to keep the O moving. In Keith – when healthy – you have a more prototypical passer who knows this offense inside and out and will make the safe, routine play. He could be good if he can get going – consistently playing.

Remember, this is all about the system and with the bevy of talent around, the plan won’t change based on losing No. 1. The Pirates will seek to run the ball more early on in the season (the case whether KB was playing or not) while a new QB gets acclimated to game speed and pressure. Of significant note on Kemp, his history fits perfectly into the current situation he finds himself in.

Prophetic perspective?

“They have a great program and if you are on the depth chart at ECU, you are a very good quarterback, so I know that I would not be handed anything like a starting job. Shane is a senior and I have a redshirt year (if needed) and then there is Kurt who has been one of the nicest people with me. I really don’t look at it in terms of where I would fall on the depth chart, but I do see it as a great opportunity for me.”

-Blake Kemp, from his Bonesville Magazine interview in 2014

Not saying Kemp will be what KB would have been, but none of us can say for sure what that would be. In the 2014 edition of Bonesville Magazine, I profiled Kemp and certainly has the right attitude. In 2014, he told me that his number one priority was to not just learn the playbook, but to master it…to become “an expert” on it, which, based on his consistency in the spring and early in fall camp – he statistically was the most consistent QB in camp – appears he has done. Important to remember also is that Kemp was a guy that former OC Lincoln Riley sought out (yes, under duress to find backfill after losing two verballed QBs to other schools) largely because of Kemp’s ability to keep drives alive. In this regards, he is more in the mold of Carden…with a headiness – a knack if you will – to figure out how to keep things rolling. He will keep defenses guesses. He is not the “elite” prototype but has been a winner everywhere he has gone and has…that “chip” we all love…depend on at ECU.

In that same interview, Kemp essentially said what drives him.

“I play for those people who support me. I remember Coach (Ruffin) McNeil talking about having a chip on the shoulder and I feel like my story sort of fits the ECU story some…I have some of that chip with me.”

I think we will be ok this season and when KB is back healthy (can you imagine the fire that kid will have when he gets back on the field) we will be in for one hell of a spring next season.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this post. Cannot wait for the opening kick-off of the season. Go Pirates!

10 comments on “Pirates take a Knee to the Gut…but Remember, We Don’t Know what We Don’t Know

  1. Good analysis. Seems like both the backups should be able to step in and perform admirably. ARGGHHH!!!

    • Hey there Matt…really wish we could link up for a game, but looks like right now I will only be able to get to Navy and UConn.

      I think we are going to have to lean on our run game – at least early on and Kemp adds a dimension to that part of the game. Not quite the wheels that KB has, but shiftiness for sure.

      Best to you and the Fam!

  2. Blackbeard's Ghost

    As hard a pill as it is to swallow, adversity can and will knock you on your keester. It’s what you do afterwards that defines you.
    There has been a very common “Ruffism”, (to borrow a Stephen Igoe term if I may) that has been said over the past 5 years.
    “Face Adversity, take a brace and punch it right in the mouth. Want some, Get some.”
    Now is the time to practice what we preach.
    Here is hoping that KB heals totally and quickly. And a shout out to CoachBee his dad. Got to be hard on a parent to know their child went down to an injury.

    Good to read your thoughts again RC.

    • As always, love to hear from you BBG. I don’t get over to HTC nearly enough…but it’s that time of year again my friend!

      I love that Ruffism without a doubt. He has really done a great job here and this season will hopefully be another testament to his mission and focus.

      I have to say…honestly…i was looking forward to KB’s rocket arm and the deep ball reprisal at ECU, but I believe Kemp will be much more like Carden out there and will move the offense.

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts often as we go into this campaign.

      Thanks for popping in!

  3. Good article. We can’t scream over what we’ve lost when we have no idea how good Kurt would have been. We just know how good we thought and hoped he’d be. I feel confident that both Kemp and Keith are very competent QB’s

    • Hi Chuck…thanks for dropping in! I share your confidence. I hope that this veteran OL can be a factor in a more potent running attack this season. That would really be helpful.

      So excited for the fun to start…no matter how it turns out this season!

      Cheers Chuck.

  4. Hi Ron. Do you feel Phillip Nelson doesn’t have a shot at starting? I realize he’s newest to the system but also read he may have the most raw talent. Thoughts?

  5. Hi Ron. Is there not any chance Phillip Nelson could be a factor? I realize he’s newest to the system but I’ve read that he may also have the most raw talent. .. thoughts?

    • In the video from Minnesota I thought he looked good and like a competitor. I just haven’t heard anything that indicates he will be available. I have heard he is talented, but he still will need time to acclimate to the playbook (hopefully he is fully vested in it already).

      Having no camp time i think sets any player back let alone a QB, but if he has the talent, then every week (once he is cleared to play), there should be a battle for the starting job. Hopefully the winner between Kemp and Keith will be successful on the field and we won’t have to find out.

      Good question though. Any guy who has Nelson’s experience has to be pretty good.

      Love the conversation Chuck. Please drop in often this season.

  6. Well Done Ron,

    Please forgive me for my lack of excitement about the Pirates when I sit here watching the Nationals march to the World Series and the beginning of yet another epic season of Washington Redskins football. There are so many great things going on here I was totally unaware the season was ready to begin in Greenville but maybe I will begin to focus.

    I must say I really felt a kick in the gut when my son now a Jr at ECU fired me a text about KB and feel really bad for this young man. All of the time in the Gym, the meetings, the work, the grind, achieve your goal and then in 1 play with your dream a few weeks away is gone.

    I think we as fans never understand the work and commitment that it takes just to make a college roster let alone play. I hope this kid has a quick recovery and will be back at 100%..

    I think his injury though happened at a good time for this team We have a few weeks to get someone ready. Kemp seems to have something to prove as an undersized lightly recruited QB who all he knows is winning. Guys like this can carry a team with that attitude or get tossed around like the VT qb was last year in Blacksburg. We shall see.

    Cody Keith looks more like a pro style QB not a system type to fit our offense. I like his arm but that was before the injuries. I hope he is at 100% because I think he can make all of the throws.

    The strength of this team was at OL & RB, so with a new OC I fully expect to see more smash mouth football as it plays into the teams strengths.

    Injuries are a huge part of the game and for the most part we have been pretty lucky overall. Your success as a team is based upon your ability to recruit. I look at our program and the system and one would think these positions namely QB, WR, and even OL with your ability to pass block should recruit themselves.

    While the QB skill set might not transition to the NFL you are throwing roughly 40 times a game. With more High School programs running the spread and considering ECU as a top 75 program in the country finding talent should not be this much of a problem. If you cant make it at at P5 school why not ECU you could excell. 50 states top 75 program do the math it should be an easy fill one would think.

    Despite my pointless rant I’m fired up for the season but I must say some of that has been lost with the KB injury.


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