At the midway point of last season, the South Carolina football team had just two wins and four losses on the season. South Carolina felt it needed to make a change in the quarterback position while playing the non-conference University of Massachusetts.
So the Gamecocks started a true freshman quarterback: Jake Bentley, who was scheduled to redshirt for his first season with the program. Bentley threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns leading the Gamecocks to their third win of the season. Bentley stepped up as a true freshman to win three out of his next four games, including a huge upset win against the then-ranked No. 18 Tennessee Volunteers.
Bentley threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns against the nationally ranked Volunteers. When asked how he felt after that game Bentley described validation.
“I didn’t skip a year for no reason," Bentley said.
The Gamecocks finished that season with six wins and seven losses. The final loss came in the Birmingham Bowl against South Florida, with the game being taken into overtime. Bentley threw for 390 yards and three touchdowns, but the Gamecocks could not come up with a win.
When asked about what the biggest change from last season to this year, Bentley said he has seen growth in different areas.
“I really just feel more knowledgeable from everything from protection schemes to defensive coverages … I feel like last year was kind of just trying to know our plays," Bentley said.
Bentley has made a huge improvement from just focusing on what the offense should be doing, to reading and reacting to the defense. Coach Muschamp has taken advantage of this by incorporating more run-pass options into the offense. This forces Bentley to read the defense and either hand the ball off to the running back or pull it away and make a quick pass. This play has been very effective for the Gamecocks this season.
"There’s also times where having that extra knowledge has gotten us out of a sack or got us a first down,” Bentley said.
Muschamp also sees the differences between Bentley this season and last year.
“It’s his total command of what we do, understanding of protections, and just the mental side of it as much as anything," he said. "Obviously, it is physically, the maturation is easy to see. But, just overall command of the offense, leader of our team."
Behind Bentley, the Gamecocks are at four wins and two losses at the midway point this year. Bentley has thrown for 1,456 yards and 12 touchdowns, while allowing just four interceptions on the season. This is with a banged up offensive line and star wide receiver Deebo Samuel out the last three games due to injury.
With the improvement from Bentley’s freshman to sophomore year, Gamecock fans have come to expect great things from the 6-foot-3 sophomore. The sky’s the limit as to how far Bentley can lead the Gamecocks going forward.