By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
After the season he had in 2005, it’s hard to imagine Eastern New Mexico University quarterback Michael Benton losing his starting job when preseason practice begins in August.
Still, ENMU football coach Mark Ribaudo says the redshirt junior could have some competition.
Jeremy Thompson, a redshirt freshman from Sweetwater, Texas, and Michael Carrasco, a sophomore from Rio Rancho who played at Cibola High School in Albuquerque, have also played well in spring drills which end with today’s 2 p.m. Silver & Green game at Clovis High’s Leon Williams Stadium.
“They all have the attitude that, ‘I’m running this team,’” Ribaudo said. “Especially with Michael (Benton) and Jeremy, we fell like we’ve got a chance to do some things.”
The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Benton broke school single-season records for rushing touchdowns (18) and for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,311) last season for the Greyhounds, who went 5-6 overall and 2-4 in the Lone Star Conference South Division. He also threw for nearly 800 yards on 42-of-109, with eight TD passes and seven interceptions.
He’s confident, but welcomes the competition.
“We’ve got some good, young players at quarterback,” said Benton, who is from Everman, Texas. “I feel like both of them have done a good job.
“Both of those guys understand that I’m a little older. We just want to do some big things next year.”
He said he’s used spring drills to try to work on his passing game.
“I have to make some leaps there,” Benton said. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job (this spring). I think it’s coming around.”
Ribaudo said the 6-foot, 165-pound Thompson, a redshirt last year, is athletic enough that he’ll play somewhere on offense if he isn’t the quarterback.
“We’re not leaving JT on the bench,” Ribaudo said. “If he’s not quarterbacking, we’re going to find somewhere else for him to play.
Carrasco, who is 5-10, 165, played on special teams last year and likely will do that again, including holding for placekicks.
If something happened to Benton, offensive coordinator Mike Howard said he’s confident someone else could step in.
“Right now we’re really solid at quarterback,” he said. “I’m pleased with how all three quarterbacks have handled the system and that they’re all good athletes.
“What’s the difference between the three guys? I don’t think they bring anything different to the table other than experience.”
Thompson’s speed is what impresses the coaches. He said he’s been a quarterback since he was little, but he’s ready to do whatever is needed — probably at receiver or slotback.
He said ENMU’s option offense is similar to what he ran in high school. “I couldn’t see myself playing in a passing offense,” Thompson said.
“Mike’s the starting quarterback now,” he said of Benton. “I’ll play anywhere my team needs me.”
Carrasco anticipates being on a number of special teams if he’s not the quarterback in the fall. He said he’s been working to make himself a better passer during the spring.
“I’ve been working on squaring my shoulders more when I throw, but just being on the field is important,” he said. “It’s good for any team to have the kind of depth (at QB) that we have.”