South Carolina assistant football Bobby Bentley has worked with a few good runners in his day.
He’s managed the Gamecocks backfield the past two years. He coached in the high school ranks for a long time, including Marcus Lattimore’s era with Byrnes High School football.
So how does early enrollee freshman Lavonte Valentine compare to the guys he’s worked with?
“I think he’s probably faster than any of them, just straight-line fast,” Bentley said. “I think it’s going to be great to have him in our room.”
That will happen with a player who can run a 100-meter dash in 10.61, as Valentine did to win a 2017 Florida state track title. The Melbourne Central Catholic High School product could add a different dimension to a Gamecocks backfield that has speed with the likes of A.J. Turner, but perhaps not that pure burner.
That is, when Valentine gets healthy.
A torn ACL his senior season of high school cost him much of the spring. He saw progress throughout, and that had improved even after practice wrapped at the end of match.
“He’s almost full speed,” Bentley said. “He’s definitely 100 percent linear. He’s getting ready to cut now, working all of his cut. We just want to take it very slow and let it be on his pace and have him ready so that we don’t rush him.”
It remains to be seen if he’ll redshirt next season or not. Bentley said the decision wasn’t made in the spring, but he came in with fellow freshman Deshaun Fenwick and joins a backfield returning its top five runners from 2017.
Although his senior year was limited, he was an explosive presence as a junior. Leading a 12-1 team, he posted 884 rushing yards yards (9.6 per carry) and caught six passes for 175 yards (29.1 yards per reception).
He and Fenwick have the potential of a thunder and lightning pairing, but both probably need to learn the finer points of running at the college level. And there too, the injury and missing spring factors in.
“That’s where I can’t wait to have him out there so I can gauge him even more,” Bentley said.