East Carolina suffered its first major loss of the year Wednesday as it learned recently named starting quarterback Kurt Benkert will be out for the season with a right knee injury.
Benkert sustained the injury during practice Tuesday and additional testing Wednesday confirmed the severity of the injury.
“It was tough news that we got this morning. I’m disappointed for K.B.,” ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. “Talk about a kid that exemplifies what we want here on and off the field.”
McNeill also said that there was no contact when Benkert sustained the injury.
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The strong-armed sophomore was named starting quarterback Aug. 19 after he beat juniors Blake Kemp and Cody Keith for the job. Benkert was set to make his first career start Sept. 5 when ECU hosts Towson in its season opener.
McNeill said Benkert’s spirits were still high
“There was no ‘why?’ but it was more ‘what’s next?’” McNeill said. “We talked, him and his fiancée and I, and he said, ‘Coach, what can I do? How can I help the team since I can’t play?’”
East Carolina offensive players are not made available to the media Wednesdays, but Benkert tweeted, “You can sit there and ask ‘why me?’ or you can embrace it and say what can I (do) next?”
What the Pirates will do next is still uncertain. McNeill and first-year offensive coordinator Dave Nichol must now choose between Kemp, a junior college transfer who ran the scout team last season, or Cody Keith, who sat out all of the 2014 season and the spring of 2015 as a result of Tommy John surgery and just came back to practice Tuesday after missing two weeks with a foot injury.
Phillip Nelson and Ray Smith are other options, but neither is likely to win the job. Nelson, who recently transferred from Minnesota, has not been ruled eligible for this season, and Smith is a freshman.
McNeill did not rule out the possibility of seeing both Kemp and Keith during ECU’s opener but refused to tip his hand further as far as how he will manage his QBs.
“As coaches, we plan for all scenarios at all positions,” McNeill said. “I’m not going to reveal my plan to you right now today, but we plan for these scenarios for every position.
“We’ve surrounded (the quarterbacks) with a group that will allow them, no matter who is there, to distribute the football.”