Perry Orth has gone from one of the best stories in the past three years of South Carolina football to the outside looking in.
The Gamecocks (3-4 overall, 1-4 SEC) will move forward with true freshmen Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain at quarterback, coach Will Muschamp said Sunday.
That means Orth, the senior who went from walk-on to starter, will spend the last few games of his collegiate career in a support role barring an injury.
“I just feel like right now, from an ability standpoint, (Bentley and McIlwain) give us the best opportunity, and they’re just going to keep getting better,” Muschamp said. “Both of them do things equally well, and we’ll continue to rep that way.”
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Orth, who started 11 games in the past two years, including as recently as three weeks ago against Georgia, is currently the team’s leading passer with 661 yards on 63.3 percent passing, but Bentley’s and McIlwain’s athletic advantages and the fact they will have three remaining years of eligibility give them the edge in South Carolina’s quarterback battle.
“Perry has been great as far as supporting our guys and talking to them on the sideline. He’s been a great teammate,” Muschamp said. “He’s a great young man, and he’s a guy that certainly is a very valuable member of our organization, and a guy that I have the utmost respect for.”
Bentley started South Carolina’s 34-28 win over UMass on Saturday, playing for the first time in his collegiate career and threw for 201 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s expected to start next week’s game against Tennessee (Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Williams-Brice Stadium) with McIlwain relieving him in certain short yardage and goal-line situations as he did against the Minutemen.
“Competition is my best friend, and those guys are two competitive guys,” Muschamp said. “They are going to go out every single day and battle and support each other. It’s going to be good for the Gamecocks. That’s what I’m looking forward to. We have two good players who can do really good things, and all they are going to do is continue to get better.”
Muschamp was impressed with Bentley’s debut, he said, after reviewing the game film.
“I thought he did some nice things,” Muschamp said Sunday. “There were some communication issues that we need to handle a little better with some signals and things, just cleaning some of those things up as much as anything. He will continue to improve. He works hard at it, came out today and worked hard at it.”
Muschamp expects his team to play two quarterbacks into the foreseeable future.
“It fits us right now, and I think it’s what’s best for us,” he said. “The tough thing about the quarterback position is there is only one ball. It’s not like playing wideout where you’re going to play some sets with one, some sets with two, three or four. It’s not like they have special teams they can go play.”
Offensive lineman Donnell Stanley (ankle) and linebacker Jon Walton (knee) will return for the Tennessee game. Cornerback Rashad Fenton, who suffered a minor hamstring pull against UMass, also will play. Freshman wide receiver Randrecous Davis (hamstring) won’t play. … South Carolina’s players of the game were Deebo Samuel (offense), Cory Helms (offensive lineman), Dennis Wonnum (special teams). The Gamecocks didn’t name a defensive player of the game. “We didn’t have enough production from any one player of the game,” Muschamp said, “but we are one of seven teams in the country not to allow 30 points or more this year, so we are doing some good things.” … Muschamp was disappointed his team let two different 20-point leads slip away against UMass. “That’s the frustrating part, but you think about it, it’s the first time since 2014 that we’ve scored 34 points so it’s the first time we’ve been up by 20 in probably three years,” he said. “Our guys haven’t been in that situation before and we obviously relaxed. We obviously lost our mental intensity. New territory for us and we didn’t handle it very well.”
Who: Tennessee at South Carolina
When: 7:15 p.m., Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
Radio: 107.5 FM
Line: Tennessee by 14