Some prospects are drawn to a college program because of its traditions. Some seek to create them.
Count Bluffton’s Cam Bent among the latter.
The Bobcats’ speedster has committed to play his college football at Charlotte, just completing its second year in Conference USA and fourth season at any level.
“I think he really made a good choice,” Bluffton coach Ken Cribb said Saturday. “I think he’s a great fit for a new, up-and-coming program.”
Charlotte launched its football program in 2011, taking two years to lay the groundwork before its inaugural season in 2013. The 49ers played two years at the FCS level before stepping into Conference USA, where they already held membership in other sports.
The 49ers took a 4-7 record into Saturday night’s season finale at Texas-San Antonio, doubling their win total from a year ago. In addition, two of their past three losses have been by one point and the other by seven.
“When he got back from Charlotte, he was just real impressed with the excitement of the new program,” Cribb said. “He saw where he could really make an impact early. Sometimes it’s a lot wiser to look at where the program’s going than where it is at the moment.”
Bent, rated as a three-star recruit by 247Sports, has been showcased at both running back and slotback during the Bobcats’ 12-0 season, following a long rehabilitation from ACL surgery last fall. He projects as a slot receiver at the college level.
Charlotte’s top receiver, slotback Austin Duke, is one of 19 departing members of the 49ers’ first recruiting class.
“Never felt so good about my decision,” Bent told his Twitter followers last week.
Charlotte offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, whose offenses at West Virginia turned Pat White and Geno Smith into second-round NFL draft picks, headed up the 49ers’ recruitment of Bent.
Temple, Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina were the other schools in final consideration, Cribb said. Bent had at least eight offers to sift through, including South Carolina, though the Gamecocks seemed to cool after Bent held off a decision.
“He just held them off too long,” Cribb said. “Those guys just don’t wait around forever. They keep filling and reworking their boards.”
Bent has been Bluffton’s No.2 rusher and receiver this season, as the Bobcats moved into the Class 3A Lower State semifinals with Friday night’s victory over Lake City. His 95-yard touchdown reception proved the game-breaking score in a Bridge Bowl victory over Hilton Head Island, and he’s also returned three kickoffs for TDs.
“He’s on a very talented team with a lot of playmakers,” Cribb said. “We spread the wealth, which makes what we do so effective. He can break any play. He can break every play, really. He’s just hard to defend.”
Bent twice has been clocked in 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Cribb said, though that came before the ACL tear. This fall, though, he ran a 4.4 in a brace at the Shrine Bowl combine, just days after receiving medical clearance to cut loose.
“He’s a legitimate 4.3 any day of the week,” Cribb said.