PLANT CITY – Sometimes the highs and lows come within the same day.
On Friday, in arguably his team’s biggest game of the year, Plant City junior quarterback Bennie Coney sat, benched by first-year Raiders coach Wayne Ward for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Less than 24 hours later, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher gave him an oral scholarship offer.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Coney will be one of Tampa Bay’s top prospects next year and ESPNU had him on its national watch list for the Class of 2012, but he admits he's still a work in progress. Before practice Monday, he talked with Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina about growing up, lessons learned and where he could see himself playing in college.
The Raiders (2-2) host Chamberlain (1-3) on Friday night at 7:30.
You went up to the Florida State-Wake Forest game on Saturday and came home with a scholarship offer from the 'Noles. Was that a surprise?
Yeah, it was a surprise. I didn’t expect it. I just expected to talk to the coaches. That’s what I was going up there to do, and then (Jimbo Fisher) brought me into his office and said, ‘I want to let you know we’re offering you a scholarship.’ I was like, ‘Wow.’ I knew I was on their radar. They had been talking to me previously, so I knew they were kind of interested.
What are your five favorite schools right now?
Florida State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Michigan State, and probably Purdue. (Coney has oral offers from all five.)
What will go into your decision when you make your college decision?
Probably playing time, if they think I can get on the field quicker.
Any one of those schools stand out in terms of where you think you’d be most comfortable with the offense?
Notre Dame runs a pro-style offense and that’s what we’re trying to mix up here. We run it a little under center, too, so I like that. Florida State runs a little pro style too.
You’re coming back this week after Coach Ward benched you for the game against district rival Newsome (Plant City lost 24-21). How tough was it to have to sit in a big game like that and what did you learn from the experience?
It made me feel worse knowing it was a big game. But it made me feel good that my backup (sophomore Nick Rodriguez) did well. I learned a lot from it, to keep my mouth shut. I’m learning to walk away. … I know I need to become a better leader.
Coach said the biggest lesson sometimes comes when you take something a player loves away from him. Think that was the case here?
I’m actually glad he took that game away. That way I can actually find myself – find myself on the field and find myself as a person. I’m kind of happy that he did it.
You’re still a junior. How is this year going to be a growing year for you?
I’ve been growing a lot. I think I’m finding out more about who I am. The camps have made me better. It makes me realize how good I can be. Right now, it feels crazy. There’s just a lot of things going on.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)