4-Star RB Eno Benjamin Finished with College Visits, Eyes Potential Texas OfferDecember 7, 2016
Exactly two years after receiving his first college scholarship offer, Texas running back Eno Benjamin arrived in New York City with his recruitment process at a crossroads.
The 5'10", 205-pound prospect began a three-day tour of Manhattan on Sunday as a member of the U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year finalist list. This getaway gave him a chance to reflect on an accomplished prep career and that initial offer he landed Dec. 4, 2014, from the Iowa Hawkeyes.
"This is where I've always wanted to be as a football player," Benjamin told Bleacher Report.
Rated No. 10 nationally among running backs in Scout.com rankings, the Wylie East High School senior spent six months committed to Iowa following an April 2016 announcement. Now just weeks away from early enrollment, his collegiate destination is undetermined.
Benjamin backed off a verbal pledge to the Hawkeyes in October, setting the stage for a frenzied stretch toward his final decision.
"I'm actually glad this situation happened," he said. "I learned a lot from it and now I'm moving forward with that understanding."
Benjamin admits he suffered from some recruiting fatigue before his initial commitment.
"I think I was just tired of the recruiting process—all the visits and driving—and at the time I felt like Iowa was where I wanted to be," he said. "I made that early commitment but I always planned on taking other visits. I figured I'd go see what's out there and if Iowa is the place for me then it's going to be Iowa. But things didn't go that way."
An Iowa program policy geared against allowing pledged prospects to spend time at alternative universities contributed toward a breaking point between the two parties. Benjamin expressed this sentiment last month in an open letter via Scout.com.
“September rolls around and I get my official scholarship letter from the University of Iowa," he wrote. "I’m reading it and this is the first time I see 'you cannot visit other campuses.' All the recruits from Texas talked about it when we got the letter. Everyone was completely blindsided by it."
Benjamin, who reports approximately 30 total FBS offers, eventually logged official visits to Arizona State, Missouri and Utah. It turns out those will be his last travel plans of this process.
He explained impending early graduation and other endeavors will prevent him from utilizing another official visit. There's also a narrow window for in-home visits before Benjamin announces collegiate intentions Jan. 7 at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
He didn't return home until late Tuesday and is heading out of town this weekend, leaving a limited time frame for staffs to check in with him before the "contact period" concludes Sunday. The college football recruiting calendar enters a "dead period" Dec. 12 and that continues through Benjamin's early enrollment.
Benjamin mentioned five schools—Arizona State, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Utah—among those weighing heavily on his mind. However, there is a possible wild card in the mix that may dramatically shake things up late.
"If Texas comes into play, I like Texas as well," he said.
Benjamin refers to the likelihood of a Longhorns offer as "borderline."
Charlie Strong, dismissed from the program last month, didn’t extend an offer. New Texas head coach Tom Herman pursued the in-state running back during his Houston tenure and has been in touch since relocating to Austin.
"I know what Coach Herman is capable of doing with the program and he proved a lot while at Houston," Benjamin said. "I'm excited about Texas. I actually grew up an Oklahoma fan, but when that opportunity is there you can't turn it down."
At this stage, the Longhorns haven't formally entered the chase. If Texas jumps into the fray last-minute, Benjamin is confident there won't be many questions left unanswered.
"I know a lot about that coaching staff and I know a lot about Texas, so it's not like I would have a lot to figure out everything in a short time," he said.
While assessing potential landing spots, Benjamin noted the impending departure of leading rushers at Texas (D'Onta Foreman) and Utah (Joe Williams). He's also expressed intrigue about Michigan's backfield rotation (four Wolverines gained at least 400 yards on the ground during regular-season action).
Fellow U.S. Army All-American Player of the Year finalist Najee Harris—a longtime Alabama Crimson Tide commit considered the class' No. 1 running back recruit—will use an official visit at Michigan this weekend. Benjamin isn't overly concerned about peers at the position, whether they're incoming prospects or program veterans.
"I like competition and I'm confident in what I've learned because I honestly believe Texas is the best place to prepare you for college football," he said. "Of course I want to push for playing time but it's good to have that knowledge tree at your position. Someone you can look up to who can pass knowledge down."
Benjamin is sorting through more pressing matters, particularly his comfort level with each school. Focus also shifts to academic goals, as he intends to study business law.
"The main factor is finding somewhere I can be developed as a person as a well as a running back," he said. “When I visit campuses, I want to see that brotherhood between teammates. It's really important to have that environment."
Benjamin wrapped up his high school career in November, capping it off with a 2,600-yard season. He tallied 32 rushing touchdowns in 13 games, according to 247Sports, and gained 353 yards on the ground in Wylie East's playoff opener, per MaxPreps.
He carried the ball more than 1,000 times at Wylie East, producing 7,546 yards and 106 scores. His last college audition will occur Jan. 7 during the All-American Bowl, and Benjamin expects to have everything finalized at least a few days beforehand.
"I think I'm going to have it figured out in advance," he said. "There are a few schools that I'm down to and I'll be really praying on it and talking about the determining factors with my family."
Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Quotes and observations obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Prospect ratings and information courtesy of Scout.
Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.