During the spring all eyes were on the quarterback competition between new arrival Phillip Nelson, a transfer from Rutgers and Minnesota, and Kurt Benkert. The junior quarterback Benkert was slated to be the starter last season until tearing his ACL just before the season opener. Now just over a week removed from spring practice Benkert is transferring, according to a press release sent out by East Carolina.
“I am saddened to announce that I am transferring from East Carolina University,” Benkert said. “I am very blessed for the opportunity that ECU has given me in obtaining my degree, and am forever thankful for the support from such great coaches, teammates, faculty and fans. This was a very tough decision that came from a lot of sleepless nights and conversations from those close to me. With that being said, I feel it is in my best interest to explore other options for graduate school."
Throughout spring practice, Head Coach Scottie Montgomery and staff described the race for the starting quarterback spot to be close. The staff did not indicate when they would make a decision and which quarterback was the front-runner. Both quarterbacks split reps with the first team during spring practice and also in the Purple and Gold game.
Both quarterbacks combined for 447 yards passing in the spring game on April 16th. Benkert engineered two touchdown drives and also led his team to a field goal. Nelson was under center for three scoring drives, with one resulting in a touchdown.
In 2014, Benkert was the backup to Shane Carden and played in three games. The next season Benkert competed and won the starting job in the off-season but tore his ACL on August 25th, just before the season opener. The junior quarterback has two years of eligibility remaining.
“While it was initially disappointing to hear, our immediate focus needs to remain on Pirates who want to be Pirates,” Montgomery said. “We had a very competitive spring at many positions and the objective is for that energy, work ethic and ambition to continue throughout the summer and into preseason camp."