So you lost your starting quarterback for the season with less than two weeks left before the season opener versus Towson. I know, let those tears out because you had Kurt Benkert pegged as the next Jeff Blake. Okay, you feel better now? Of course not, but we should probably start looking forward at the options for the East Carolina Pirates upcoming season and how they will affect the offense.
Blake Kemp, a JUCO transfer from Mesa Community College, has been in the program for over a year after joining for the 2014 season. Smith used a redshirt last season because he was never going to supplant Shane Carden for the starting job and it was a better idea to hold his two years of eligibility for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Kemp has been the second best quarterback in camp and gave Benkart a small run for the starting job. Kemp knows the position and has a solid arm but does not have the ability to throw the deep ball as well as Benkert. The problem with Kemp is that he has a habit of throwing the ball to the wrong team on occasion... as in was more than he should.
Cody Keith, a junior, has lots of potential and was actually the backup quarterback way back in 2012 and 2013 but saw things end with an elbow injury. Since Keith has been with the Pirates, he has been sidelined by an ankle injury (sustained during an All-Star game after already signing with ECU), a terrible elbow injury that took a year and a half to overcome, and a foot injury sustained in fall camp. If he could ever stay healthy for more than a few games, Keith could be a great stopgap quarterback for replace Benkert this fall. I cannot see that happening and that foot injury could come back to bite him this fall. Keith is back on the field but is way too far behind to steal the starting job from Kemp.
Philip Nelson is an interesting case after earning a spot on the team as a walk-on. The former Minnesota starter and Rutgers (never actually made it to the season) quarterback could be an intriguing player as the season progresses and he is able to learn more of the offense. Right now, he doesn't seem ready to get too involved in the quarterback battle but could be fast tracked this fall if either Kemp or Keith or both struggle in the early season.
If anyone else on the ECU roster at quarterback ends up starting this fall, it will be a huge surprise.
Despite head coach Ruffin McNeill's insistence that a new quarterback could be plugged in earlier this summer, Kemp, Keith, or Nelson is a downgrade and the offense will struggle. The Pirates will still move the ball with a verteran offensive line and several quality running backs in addition to Isaiah Jones and Bryce Williams at wide receiver and tight end. The clock will still tick and ECU will still be ECU but the offense will not be as explosive without Benkert at the helm.