South Carolina coach Will Muschamp had a chance Sunday night to put the brakes on the Jake Bentley-might-play talk.
He did not.
“We have looked at all options as far as what we need to do,” Muschamp said during his regular Sunday evening conference call with reporters. “We have a good plan going in, and we’ll see on Saturday. We went back and evaluated every position.”
The Gamecocks (2-4 overall) had an open date last week, and play UMass (1-6) on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium at noon.
“Our mentality is to win now and what we need to do to do that, and we’ve got a good plan going,” Muschamp said.
Bentley, the son of running backs coach Bobby Bentley, enrolled at South Carolina this summer after graduating high school a year early. The 6-foot-3, 225-pounder was a four-star prospect at Opelika High in Opelika, Ala., before joining the Gamecocks. He will turn 19 in November.
Bentley hasn’t played this year and looked headed for a redshirt season until last week when South Carolina’s offensive struggles forced the team’s coaches to consider all options. Like all the team’s first-year freshmen, Bentley hasn’t been allowed to speak to the media since enrolling at South Carolina, but he told The State in April he thought he could compete for the starting job this year.
“I believe I can go in there and compete right away,” he said at the time. “I’m ready to work my butt off for the team and do what I can for the benefit of the team.”
South Carolina is last in the SEC in scoring offense (14 points per game) and 13th in yards (304.5 yards per game). Senior Perry Orth and freshman Brandon McIlwain have each started three games at quarterback.
“If there is an alternative and you feel like that alternative is going to make your football team better right now, then you make that decision, whether it is a defensive end, receiver or quarterback. That doesn’t really matter,” Muschamp said. “You sit down with the young man and his family and you make a decision on what is best for the young man and the football team.”
On Sunday, Muschamp relayed the story for former LSU cornerback Travis Daniels, who didn’t play the entire regular season of his freshman year before using a year of eligibility to play in the SEC Championship and Sugar Bowl.
“It’s not a decision that you just make as a coach. You sit down with all the parties involved and you come to an agreement on what’s best for the young man and what’s best for the football team,” Muschamp said.
The Gamecocks won’t announce their starting quarterback until game time, Muschamp said.
Starting linebacker Jon Walton is expected to miss Saturday’s game because of an arthroscopic procedure on his knee. Larenz Bryant will be the team’s starting strongside linebacker with T.J. Holloman in the middle and Bryson Allen-Williams on the weak side, Muschamp said. Walton is expected to be ready in two weeks for the Tennessee game. Offensive lineman Donnell Stanley (ankle) and wide receiver Randrecous Davis (hamstring) won’t play this week. Davis will miss two more weeks “at least,” Muschamp said, and it’s possible the freshman receiver could take a medical redshirt this season.
Who: UMass at USC
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM
Line: USC by 20