The emergence of freshman quarterback Jake Bentley is a big reason why South Carolina is one win away from a bowl bid, and it also is paying dividends for the Gamecocks on the recruiting trail.
Bentley is completing 73 percent of his passes through three starts and has thrown for 622 yards. He has six touchdown passes and no interceptions in wins over UMass, Tennessee and Missouri.
Prospects appear to be taking notice of what Bentley is doing as ESPN analyst Andre Ware said during the Missouri telecast that USC coach Will Muschamp told him before the game that two prospects who were previously not considering South Carolina reached out to the Gamecocks’ staff last week because they are interested in playing with Bentley.
Muschamp acknowledged in a recent news conference that playing well on the field correlates with success in recruiting.
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“I think you’ve always got to have promise in what you’re trying to do to sell to a young man and his family. To see the product on the field benefitting and most prospects talk to players on the team, so they are going to find out if you’re a good coach and if you really care about them off the field,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to see some progress as far as that’s concerned, so there’s no doubt it helps.”
USC’s most recent commit, Georgia receiver Chad Terrell, admitted that watching Bentley’s play over the past few weeks had a role in his commitment.
Terrell chose the Gamecocks over offers from Oregon, Kansas State, Louisville and others.
“Jake Bentley was honestly a huge factor for me,” he said. “I saw the last two games and saw how he’s definitely going to develop more and more. I just feel comfortable having him as the quarterback there for the future.”
Bentley also has re-energized the South Carolina fan base after a 2-4 start to the year.
South Carolina is averaging nearly 77,000 fans per game, and they are creating an electric atmosphere.
Missouri running back Damarea Crockett said following last Saturday’s game at Williams-Brice Stadium, “That’s probably the rowdiest student section I’ve seen. That’s the rowdiest stadium I’ve been in. It was a great atmosphere. It was way louder (than LSU and Florida) on the field. That’s the first game I couldn’t hear anything Drew (Lock) was saying, and I was right behind him.”
Muschamp said a fired-up fan base and an impressive atmosphere can be a difference-maker for recruits.
“The environment we have in our home stadium, especially for a night game, is tremendous in recruiting,” he said. “To see the positive support that our fans give us helps us tremendously in recruiting.”