Jake Bentley said at SEC Media Days that he expected offensive play-caller Kurt Roper to unleash more of the playbook this season, now that Bentley and the offensive skill players are more experienced.
There are already clear differences, as Bentley has gotten some work under center in the first fall practices, after working exclusively from the shotgun during his freshman season. When Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain played during the first half of 2016, they stayed in the shotgun as well, as Roper attempted to make things easier for the young offense.
This is Bentley's second season working with center Alan Knott, whose 29 career starts lead the team. That consistency is paying off with the new formation, Bentley says.
“We’re just trying some different things,” Bentley said Tuesday. “Alan is a great center. He is so smart. He sees stuff before I do most of the time and just getting that chemistry with him has been great.”
Knott, who has played with six different quarterbacks during his USC career, says the offense is handling the new formation well, and he expects it to add another dimension to the Gamecock offense, though he says he doesn't know how much Roper plans to use it.
“It helps with play action passes and that kind of stuff,” Knott said. “When you’re under center defenses are looking, or if I was on defense, I would be looking, ‘Okay he is about to hand this ball off.’"
Knott said that plays from under center are often short passes or run plays, so USC is looking to hit some home run passes after getting defensive backs to bite on the play action fake. With a dangerous running back trio behind him, Bentley is confident that mixing in some deep shots will help clear out the box, giving the backs more running room.
“[Deep shots] get guys out of the box and off your run game,” Bentley said. “It makes them keep their safeties back. When you start just running the ball it puts more guys in the box. You have to be able to take your shots.”
After a practice last week, Roper said he's looking to increase USC's downfield passing plays, potentially into the double digits, now that he has more experienced skill players on the offense. With big play threats like Deebo Samuel and physical, possession receivers like Bryan Edwards and Hayden Hurst, Roper seems to have the confidence to open it up for Bentley's second season.