Jake Bentley has checked one of the two chief goals from his offseason to-do list.
South Carolina’s sophomore quarterback immersed himself in the Gamecocks playbook and has demonstrated a new mastery for his coaches and teammates in practice, but the other big goal for Bentley can only truly be proven on Sept. 2, when the season begins.
Not that he isn’t working on it now.
“When practice isn’t going well, offense is kind of in a slump or not performing our best, I just to keep the energy going and keep us going in the right direction,” he said.
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That’s something Bentley believes he failed to do well enough on the game field last season. After taking over the starting quarterback job in the seventh game of the season, he led the team to a 4-2 record to cap the regular season, but his mood in those two losses sticks out to him and not in a good way.
Looking back on games against Florida and Clemson, Bentley felt he let the circumstances dictate his mood rather than positively affecting his teammates.
“I am more of an outgoing guy. The guys see me when we score a touchdown, I’m fist-pumping but I have to be the same upbeat guy when things go bad,” he said. “Just keeping that positive energy up is the big thing I need to work on. I feel like I have done that this year.”
Bentley’s determination to put on a happy face could be tested in the first game of the season. The Gamecocks play N.C. State, which has one of the best defensive lines in the country.
“You have to be your personality and one thing he is is energetic,” USC offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “He’s competitive and passionate. You always want to stay in a positive mindset as best you can, but you have to stay true to who you are.”
Roper also coached the famously poker-faced Eli Manning while Manning was the quarterback at Ole Miss.
“If you watch Eli Manning play, if you just put a camera on him, you don’t know if he threw a touchdown or an interception,” Roper said. “He’d throw the ball, reset his pads, looks sideways and then he goes on. People critique that. There were a lot of people who said that wouldn’t work until he won two Super Bowls.”
So while Bentley tries to better rally his teammates, Roper will try to make sure he does it within the right framework.
“The biggest thing for a leader is you better work hard first,” Roper said, “you better be productive second and then you better stay true to your personality third.”