South Carolina turned to true freshman Jake Bentley on Saturday in hopes of jumpstarting its floundering offense. Bentley, who graduated high school early and enrolled in school this summer, became the third quarterback to start a game this season when he trotted onto the field to begin the Gamecocks game against UMass.
Bentley had not previously played this season and appeared headed for a redshirt season.
Senior Perry Orth and true freshman Brandon McIlwain each started three of the first six games of the season, a span in which South Carolina won two games and lost four. The Gamecocks entered the UMass game ranked last in the SEC in scoring (14 ppg) and next-to-last in yardage (304.5 ypg).
On the team’s pregame depth chart, Orth, McIlwain and Bentley were all listed as the “OR” starter. Orth is the team’s leading passer with 661 yards on 63.3 percent passing, no touchdowns and two interceptions. McIlwain has 567 yards on 52.8 percent passing with two touchdowns and one interception.
10 things to know about Jake Bentley
1. His role model
He views former Byrnes High and USC running back Marcus Lattimore as his idol. He patterns his work ethic after Lattimore and wants to leave a legacy like Lattimore’s.
2. His brothers
Chas Dodd and Shuler Bentley were star quarterbacks at Byrnes and then played at Division I college teams – Dodd at Rutgers and Bentley at Old Dominion.
3. His dad
Bobby Bentley was a legendary high school coach at Byrnes, winning four consecutive state championship from 2002-05 and going 57-2. He is now the running backs coach at USC.
4. His legend
He was viewed as a future star quarterback and top recruit from the time he was in middle school. Observers could see he was going to have the frame and skill to be a big-time QB.
5. His winding road
In the offseason after his freshman year, Bobby moved his family after accepting a coaching position at Auburn. Jake played his sophomore and junior seasons at Opelika High in Alabama.
6. His decision
With his family moving to Columbia, he decided to skip his senior year of high school and enroll a year early at USC instead of staying at Opelika High or enrolling at a Midlands high school.
7. His age
He would have been old for his grade as a high school senior. He will turn 19 on Nov. 23. Fellow freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain will turn 19 on May 31, 2017.
8. His size
At 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, with a strong arm and good speed, he has everything you want in a quarterback from a physical standpoint. He has prototypical size for a future NFL QB.
9. His stats
He was the second-ranked quarterback in the nation in the ESPN Junior 300 after passing for 2,834 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a junior at Opelika.
10. His potential
“He is one of the smarter, more well-schooled pocket guys we have seen come out in quite a few years. He has a real feel for the game.” – ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill