South Carolina’s 2016 football season changed the night of Oct. 8 thanks to an interesting, and until now private, phone call.
The Gamecocks were coming off a 28-14 home loss to Georgia in a game moved to a Sunday night because of Hurricane Matthew. South Carolina fell to 2-4 with the loss, and coach Will Muschamp went home that night thinking about how to turn things around.
His mind quickly turned to the quarterback position, where the team had rotated freshman Brandon McIlwain and senior Perry Orth in the first half of the season but had freshman Jake Bentley waiting in the wings. Bentley, the son of running backs coach Bobby Bentley, had skipped his senior year of high school to enroll at USC in the summer.
“To be honest with you, I called (athletic director Ray) Tanner,” Muschamp said. “I said, ‘Am I wrong to think we need to play a high school senior?’ He said, ‘Absolutely not. I’m not telling you what to do. You can do whatever you want to do.’ He said, ‘You know, if your gut tells you to do it, do it.’ ”
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The next day, Muschamp told offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to give Bentley a shot at the starting job, and two weeks later, Bentley was the Gamecocks starting quarterback. South Carolina went 4-2 to finish the regular season, and Bentley finished the year with 1,420 yards passing, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.