ROCK HILL — As a first grader, Shuler Bentley started at quarterback for his flag football team. The Byrnes senior quarterback now plays for his dad, Rebel coach Bobby Bentley, and seemingly the play call for his whole life has been “starting quarterback, team leader.”
Northwestern quarterback Mason Rudolph came by the position differently. He was a freshman wide receiver at Westminster Catawba Christian Academy in 2010, the same year Northwestern standout Justin Worley was picking apart South Carolina high school defenses. With Worley graduating, Rudolph transferred to Northwestern. Now in his senior year, Rudolph’s rocket rise earned him a scholarship to Oklahoma State and a place in the conversation next to Worley.
Bentley and Rudolph’s comparison mirrors that of their teams. Both Byrnes (2-0, ranked No. 1 in Class 4A) and Northwestern (3-0, ranked No. 2 in Class 4A) run spread offenses and pummel opposing defenses relentlessly.
Part of that may be because Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson and Bentley have often exchanged spread offense ideas.
When Byrnes and Northwestern meet Friday night, the two signal callers will likely have the biggest impact on the outcome of the biggest game in the state so far this season.
At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Rudolph’s size is the most obvious difference.
“He’s a big athlete,” Bobby Bentley said. “He creates a lot of problems with his size and athleticism. It’s hard for the defense to tackle him.”
Another reason it’s hard to pressure Rudolph is the Trojans’ Air Raid offense. Northwestern elevates dinking and dunking to the highest form. The Trojans average eight yards per pass attempt, and 10 per completion, helping Rudolph hit on nearly 75 percent of his throws through three games.
Though not as physically gifted, 6-foot-tall Shuler Bentley has advantages over his Northwestern counterpart, namely experience and intuition.
“I think his strength as a player is his pre-snap read,” said 247Sports national recruiting analyst Ryan Bartow. “He’s got a good idea, knowing that defense, of where he’s going to go with the ball, and if that’s taken away he can hit his second and third reads.”
At more than 18 yards per completion, Bentley’s team likes to sling it toward the end zone. In an 82-49 win over Woodruff last weekend, the Rebel quarterback son-of-a-coach threw a state-record nine touchdown passes, and ran in a 10th.
Bentley, who threw for a state-record 59 touchdown passes last year despite playing much of the season with a dislocated shoulder, is committed to Old Dominion. Rudolph, the more promising prospect of the pair due to his size and rawness, committed to Oklahoma State last May, opting for the Cowboys over Virginia Tech and LSU.
“It’s all in front of him,” Bartow said of Rudolph. “Once he fills into his frame and he’s 6-4, 230, he’ll have more strength to make the deeper throws. He’s scratching the surface in regards of that.”
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