Benkert prepares for his shot

With Cody Keith out for the remainder of the season, East Carolina has activated redshirt freshman quarterback Kurt Benkert to back up Shane Carden against Florida International.

East Carolina had last week off and now gears up to take on Florida International. However, when the Pirates head to Miami they'll be without backup quarterback Cody Keith.

Keith is out for the remainder of the season due to an elbow injury. "It's been nagging him a little bit all year and we've been limiting his throws," said head coach Ruffin McNeill during Monday's weekly press conference.

With that, ECU activated freshman quarterback Kurt Benkert to back up Shane Carden. McNeill said there are no plans to play Benkert against FIU on Saturday. McNeill also said that, while he'd like to keep Benkert's redshirt on, Benkert will play if needed to. If that's the case, he can always be redshirted next season.

"I'll be ready for whatever is thrown my way," said Benkert. "I know I just have to keep preparing like I have been since I got here and everything will fall in place."

Benkert has been with the team since January and the offense he played in high school is relatively similar to the offense ECU runs. Now that he's officially Carden's backup, he's been moved from scout team to second team during practice.

"I've gone from all the scout team reps to all the second team reps, so it's a big difference in what I've been doing," said Benkert. "Individual drills are still the same, but drills like one-on-one and things like that, there's a lot more workload in it."

Carden said it's always tough to watch a teammate go down with an injury, but that Benkert has done a great job stepping up and embracing the increased workload.

"Kurt's a guy who is always paying attention and always asking questions and always working hard," said Carden. "He's come in these last couple of practices and he hasn't missed a beat."

"Obviously, there are some things," Carden added. "He's been on the scout team the whole time and he needs to get caught up a little bit from camp and whatnot. I think he's done a great job Sunday night and [Tuesday] at getting in there and being loud and being a leader."

Benkert will be playing his first game as a backup in his own backyard. ECU recruited him from Cape Coral, Fla. and his family will be in attendance Saturday in Miami.

"It's crazy how things work out," said Benkert. "I don't really have much to say about it, but I'm just happy I'm going home for the first time!"

It seems like this season the team gets roughed up more during off weeks than game weeks. In addition to Keith, offensive lineman Adhem Elsawi also suffered an eye injury during the bye week that will force him out of Saturday's game.

As far as strength and conditioning, the team keeps a similar schedule during bye weeks. Conditioning coach Jeff Connors noted that the main difference is increased leg work on Thursdays because the team isn't playing on Saturday.

"Some of the more recent injuries we've had have really been some freak-type things that you don't normally see," said Connors. "We've had a detached retina and a PCL, things of that nature that I've seen very few of during my career."

"In this profession, I've seen injuries kind of run in stages," added Connors. "I've seen some years where you have a lot of shoulder injuries, years where you have ACLs. It seems like this year is the year of the freak injury."

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