Future Coug catches Dilfer's eye at Elite 11
"You've got one of the quickest releases I've seen since we started this program," Dilfer told Bender.
The Elite 11 camp has been running for 14 years and last weekend arrived to Atlanta where Bender and 69 other quarterbacks took the field to work under Dilfer's direction. This included 30 prospects with D-1 offers.
Bender made his mark.
Of the 70 on hand, Bender was one of three prospects who has already committed, the others were Deshaun Watson (Clemson) and A.J. Long (Syracuse).
"It was just a great experience for me up there," Bender said. "There was a lot of good talent from the Southeast and it was cool to see how I stack up against some of the other quarterbacks in the area. I felt like I threw really well when I was there and it was awesome to be able to work with Coach Dilfer and have him critique my game."
BENDER'S QUICK RELEASE was what Dilfer praised most during the one-day camp.
"He kept saying how quick I was throwing the ball and how it stood out to him," Bender said. "He calls it the LTA, which is the load to arrival. On top of that, he also gave me plenty of pointers to work on, focusing on my footwork. I tend to lock my front leg, so he suggested I bend my knees a little bit more, which will help me get more power when I go down field."
Dilfer, the sixth overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft and 13-year NFL veteran, huddled with his staff at the Elite 11 and they selected a top seven, who would then showcase their talents one at a time in front of the entire camp. Dilfer didn't hesitate in calling the future Coug to center stage.
"We'd start off by throwing a slant, and then have to run to a different area on the field and make another throw," said Bender. "It was about 45 seconds long, but definitely tough.
"It was a pretty cool honor to have them select me for that."
The 6-1, 175-pounder and Dilfer also spoke about his future at Washington State.
"Coach Dilfer said he knew about it beforehand and he said I better expect to chuck the ball around and put up some big numbers under a coach like Mike Leach," Bender said with a laugh.
The Floridian committed to the Cougs back on March 30 during an unofficial visit to the Palouse.
"It just felt right when I was out there," he said. "Coach Leach also said that he liked my release and the fact that I play in a similar offense at my high school. My dad and I talked about it after they offered and we just felt like it would be a great opportunity. Leach is a good coach and I'll be able to throw the ball around. I think I can do really well in the Air Raid."
Washington STATE WAS the first to offer Bender and with performances like he had at the Elite 11 camp, it's easy to see why. However, it also means that more programs are going to show interest in the senior-to-be.
"I've been contacted by Penn State, Louisville and Memphis," Bender said. "Memphis has backed off a little bit since I committed to the Cougs, but those other schools are still reaching out to me. I've told those schools that I'm solid on my commitment, but they're still sending me letters and stuff.
"I don't plan on decommitting from Washington State. If everything goes as planned, I'll be signing with them next February."
BENDER ENTERS spring camp for Cardinal Gibbons High as the starting QB, which wasn't the case last season. As a junior in 2012, Bender split time with senior Ryan Giaratano, who recently committed to play football for Jacksonville University. Bender still threw for 1,402 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.
With the offense now solely under his reigns, Bender's numbers are sure to increase this season. But that will be secondary to something else.
"I think it will prepare me for the future (at WSU)," Bender said. "There's some things I know I'm going to have to work on though, specifically my consistency. Every time I throw the ball, I know I'll have to do so with a purpose. Whether it's on the field or just tossing it in the backyard, I need to stay focused. It was a little frustrating for me last year having to split time, but I think it will be a fun season for us and I'm ready to lead."
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