Chip Bennett a college guru
You can say this about Coach Chip Bennett – he is a dual threat. Not only does he have nearly 30 years of experience training quarterbacks, Bennett is equally adept at helping them get to the collegiate level.
Let’s start at the beginning and follow Bennett’s football path. In 1984, he was playing quarterback for Albany State in New York when he suffered a knee injury. “Back then, you’re talking about a major operation,” Bennett said. “Now days, I probably would have been rehabilitated and playing in three months. But when I hurt my knee, I immediately started coaching after that.”
One of Bennett’s students was his son – CJ – who is playing at Murray State after spending three seasons at South Alabama. “My son was pretty talented, but dads and sons can bump heads,” Chip Bennett said. “I was looking for a guy to take over, a guy I felt comfortable with, so I went to see Darin (Slack). I actually talked to him on the phone and said, ‘What are you going to do for my son that a Bob Johnson out in California can’t do or something?’ I just liked his response. Darin said, ‘Just give me a half hour with your son, it will change his whole life with football.’
“We went to private session and that was it,” Bennett continued. “My son started in the Darin Slack Quarterback Academy and it grew to QBA and now it’s NFA. We were there from the beginning and I always told Darin that when my son was done playing I was going to come coach with him. I’ve done a few camps, in Phoenix, Alabama, a couple other places. I don’t have a lot of time, I have a special needs child that needs care, so the way I stay involved with these guys is to help them with recruiting.”
High praise from Coach Slack
Coach Slack, NFA’s Founder and President, is thrilled to have Bennett involved. “I believe Chip’s knowledge of the recruiting process and his contacts are second to none,” Slack said. “The fact that he has a son who went through not only NFA’s training program from a young age, but also the Division 1 scholarship process, makes his experience as a trainer, father and scout unique in today’s collegiate evaluation theater. NFA benefits dramatically from his perspective and passion to see young men get the opportunities they deserve for the effort they put in. The value of his multi-faceted experience and skills as a recruiter for NFA quarterbacks is immeasurable. We are grateful for his investment in our young men and this relationship that is making a huge difference.”
Simply put, Bennett is experienced enough to know what college football coaches are looking for, regardless of the level. And he knows how to promote NFA players.
“Living in Florida, and the talent that is here, there are a lot of blue-chip athletes and you just kind of develop contacts,” Bennett said. “College coaches, they kind of know if I’m calling them – if I’m calling a Notre Dame – they know the kid can play at Notre Dame. I’m not going to call Notre Dame on a kid that’s a I-AA or Division II player. I wouldn’t do that. It’s unfair to the kid and the school to think that he can play at that level.
“I’m real honest with the kid,” Bennett continued. “I tell them and I tell their parents, and sometimes it’s not what they want to hear, but it just has to be said. If you’re son is a Division II ballplayer, that’s where I’m going to focus my recruiting efforts. But as far as contacts, Notre Dame, Penn State, USC, UCLA, they know if I’m calling with a kid, he’s going to be at that level. They may not like him, he may not fit in their system, but he’s going to play at a school that is comparable.”
Bennett understands that most talented high school QBs want to play at big-time programs, but he offers some words of caution. “There’s one thing I tell kids when we’re starting the recruiting process and I’m helping them out,” he said. “I say, ‘You’re going to go to the school who wants you more and you’ll realize who wants you more and it’s going to be a place that you feel comfortable at.’ The level of play is secondary. We had kids who swore they wanted to go D-I – I’m a D-I player – and they walked on at D-I and then I get a call in three months and it’s ‘Coach, get me out of here; I want to go play I-AA or D-II.’ Meanwhile, we had a bunch of offers at those levels and they wanted to play higher. I’m not going to say the kid was wrong; he followed his heart. But I knew, (NFA Coach) Will (Hewlett) knew, everybody else knew it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Of course, helping quarterbacks that have gone through NFA training has been a huge boost for Bennett. “Honestly, and I’m not tooting NFA’s horn here, but they (college coaches) know if I’m calling about a quarterback that’s been trained by Dub Maddox or Will Hewlett or myself or other NFA guys, they know they’re getting a polished quarterback that’s college ready more so than a lot of kids out there,” Bennett said.
With so much talent out there and so few spots available at the collegiate level, most up and coming quarterbacks need all the help they can get. Bennett is more than happy to lend a hand.
“I’m not afraid to pick up the phone and call anybody,” he said. “I’ll call Coach (Nick) Saban at Alabama if I feel like a kid can play there. If I have confidence in a kid, like (Oregon quarterback recruit) Morgan Mahalak … I was saying he could play since he was in ninth grade and finally people starting listening once they saw film and everything. I told people this kid was a BCS quarterback when all he had was JV film to send out.”
Video is vital
Film is vital in the recruiting process, and Bennett stays on top of it with two websites – CaliPreps.net and QBRecruits.com. “The No. 1 thing a college coach wants to do is see a film first,” Bennett said. “There’s no reason to go anywhere further if the coach evaluates a player on film and doesn’t like him. So it’s film first, grades and all that stuff, those are the second questions we get asked. But typically it’s, ‘Coach (Bennett), where can I see his film?’ And we direct them to the links and it goes from there.”
CaliPreps.net, designed for prep football players in California, launched three and a half years ago. “It’s not a big success now,” Bennett said. “We’re still growing and everybody that’s been using it has renewed their subscriptions. It was a slow process because we wanted to make sure all of our content was up. This year we finally got everything in place, the infrastructure is in place, so we expect to be hitting it pretty big. This year, we expect to have a very successful year.”
QBRecruits.com, which is in its second year, is more specialized. “There are only a handful of quarterbacks on there that I help get recruited personally with Will,” Bennett said. “It’s just an easier site for the coaches. I’ll just direct them there and say, ‘Hey, here is the eight or nine quarterbacks on there’ and they’ll look at it and see which ones fit for them. It’s kind of a small site. I don’t charge the kid and I don’t charge the coaches for access. It’s just a convenience thing.”