May 22, 2013 10:45:48 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- It is down to two.
Former Penn State University quarterback Steven Bench said he has narrowed his transfer options to the University of South Florida and Mississippi State University.
Bench, who said earlier this month he planned to transfer from Penn State University, confirmed in a text message he no longer is considering North Carolina State University.
According to a ESPN.com report, former University of Arkansas quarterback Brandon Mitchell will enroll at N.C. State. Mitchell has one season of eligibility and is expected to compete immediately for a starting position. The read-option based offense is what attracted Bench to N.C. State and new coach Dave Doeren.
"I need to get with them and see what their quarterback situation really is going into next season because I think the offense they will want to install is perfect for me," Bench said. "I have talked to coach Doeren and they have expressed first and foremost they want me bad. That is something that is nice to hear from such a high-profile program."
NCAA rules restrict MSU coaches from commenting about the recruiting process of a player not on their roster.
Bench recently visited USF and was at N.C. State last weekend. He was at MSU on Tuesday.
In the phone interview last week, Bench said MSU's main selling point is the previous relationship he has with the program. He has spoken to MSU assistant coaches Les Koenning and Geoff Collins and head coach Dan Mullen.
"They recruited me out of high school, and I went to their camps to show them my skill set," Bench said. "With Mississippi State, there's no mystery. They've seen me work, they've spoken to me before, and they know what I'm about on and off the field as a person."
If Bench picks MSU, the Bulldogs could have five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster (returning starter Tyler Russell, redshirt sophomore Dak Prescott, Bench, and freshman signees Cord Sandberg and Damian Williams). Sandberg's stock in the upcoming Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft in June continues to rise. He is ranked No. 40 on Baseball America's Top 100 draft-eligible prospects list.
Bench could provide stability and compete with Prescott for a backup spot in 2013 and the starting role after Russell graduates. Prescott had surgery in the offseason to correct an issue with his big toe of his left foot, leaving Russell as the only healthy scholarship quarterback in the spring.
USF, which is coming off a 3-9 season, is expected to allow Bench to compete with third-year sophomore Matt Floyd for the starting quarterback position.
"I'm not against being away from home, even though with the reports out there that I'm deciding between schools closer than say, Penn State from where I am in Georgia," Bench said. "I want everyone to know I'm open to any school and any situation. That's sounds like a cliché but it's the truth."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bench appeared in two games for the Nittany Lions last season, completing 2 of 8 passes for 12 yards. The Cairo, Ga., native was a three-star recruit out of high school. Due to NCAA sanctions against Penn State, Bench would be able to play immediately and will have three years of eligibility remaining. Bench left Penn State because he believed junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and freshman Christian Hackenberg would compete for the starting quarterback role in fall camp. Ferguson and Bench split first-team repetitions in spring practices last month.
"I want a shot to compete for playing time wherever I go to school next," Bench said. "I want a fair opportunity to earn playing time. If we were to take the academics out of the equation and talk about on the field, I'm going to my new school to play football, not watch football being played."
Bench said last week he still has a redshirt year and that he would be willing to take it to learn the playbook and to develop chemistry with his new teammates. Bench said projections that have Russell, a fifth-year senior, as MSU's starter this season won't affect his decision about a new school.