Bobby Bentley has had plenty of meetings with high school coaches across the state of South Carolina.
He hopes to have plenty more as the Gamecocks’ new running backs coach, and they won’t be as adversarial as the first time around. Bentley was the head coach at Byrnes High from 1995-2006, winning 107 games and four straight state titles during that time.
Now, instead of trying to beat up on high school coaches across the state, Bentley will be trying to woo them and their players.
“You are walking into a school, and you are walking in with a Gamecocks shirt on. You are not walking in with a Byrnes shirt on,” Bentley said. “With the Byrnes shirt, you’re a rival, but those guys want to play for the University of South Carolina. They want to play for the garnet and black. It brings a totally different dimension to it.”
Bentley left Byrnes to become the head coach at Presbyterian in 2007 and 2008, and then returned to Byrnes as an assistant and then head coach again before joining Auburn’s coaching staff as an offensive analyst in 2014. That’s where he first met Will Muschamp, a meeting that would lead to him being able to return to his home state as a member of South Carolina’s staff.
“He’s a home run hire for us because of his contacts in the state,” Muschamp said. “I think it’s really important to start mending some fences in the state and do a good job recruiting in our state, and that starts with relationships. He’s got great relationships with everybody in state. There are a lot of ties in the state and recruiting is all about relationships, so that was a huge hire for me.”
It was pretty big for Bentley, too. He jumped at Muschamp’s offer before he knew all the details of it.
“When Coach Muschamp said he had the job, he said, ‘I want you to be on staff.’ I didn’t ask any other questions. I just said, ‘When you want me to start coach?’” Bentley said. “I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know my position, I didn’t know my role, I just said, ‘Coach, I am with you.’”
Bentley believes he’s a better coach after spending two years watching Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn oversee the offense at Auburn.
“As a head coach, you’re always the one calling the shots, moving the pieces. As an analyst, you’re able to sit back and watch,” he said. “It helped me prepare myself for this position.”
As did all those years of building relationships throughout the state of South Carolina, he believes.
“We know a lot of high school coaches, a lot of A.D.s, a lot of principals,” Bentley said. “When you are a born and raised here, you know a lot of people throughout the state, not just the Upstate or not just the lower state. I think that’s the biggest thing is relationships, trust.”