South Carolina’s new offensive coordinator, whoever it ends up being, will have many job requirements but one very specific marching order.
“When I talked to coach (Will) Muschamp after the whole situation, I was just like, ‘What are you thinking, Coach?’ He said, ‘I want to find a coordinator who fits you best. I want you to be a better quarterback. I want a guy who comes in and makes you the best quarterback you can be.’ That’s what he told me. I believe in him 100 percent that he’s going to do that.”
That’s Jake Bentley, who will enter his third year as the Gamecocks starting quarterback in 2018. His first two have been spent under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but “the whole situation” included Roper’s firing on Dec. 6 and the promotion of wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon to be in charge of the offense for at least the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Michigan.
How McClendon handles Bentley, who will start his 20th collegiate game against the Wolverines, might go a long way toward determining whether he gets the full-time job. Bentley has completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year. His father Bobby Bentley, who has coached South Carolina’s running backs the past two seasons, will be the quarterbacks coach in the Outback Bowl.
Bentley believes the McClendon-Bobby Bentley combo could be a winner, but, at least publicly, he’s deferring to Muschamp’s judgment.
“I fully believe that coach McClendon can be that guy, with my dad being quarterback coach, but if there’s somebody else, they can be great coaches, too,” Jake Bentley said. “Whoever coach Muschamp hires to be the OC, I’m ready to go.”
Bentley and Roper shared a good relationship, Bentley said.
“It’s not all coaching all the time,” the quarterback said. “Coach Roper was an outstanding coach and an outstanding person who taught us a lot as quarterbacks and definitely made us better. He made us better quarterbacks when he was here.”
Bentley took on much more responsibility for managing the Gamecocks offense this year, and at the same time, his completion percentage and yards per pass attempt went down from his freshman year.
“Jake is the same guy every day,” leading wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “He’s not the type of guy to get fazed by interceptions. He forgets things quickly; he moves on quickly; he’s going to be fine.”
The question now is: In what sort of offensive system will Bentley move on? Muschamp has hinted that he’d like to see a faster pace, and Bentley’s knowledge of South Carolina’s experience should make that possible.
“Going into this game, there’s new stuff we’re going to throw out and see if it works,” Bentley said, “and if the guys really embrace what coach McClendon is doing and go out there and execute.”
If Bentley embraces it, and excels with it, that might be enough to get McClendon the job.