South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst had reason to not expect Jake Bentley to move the way he has.
The freshman signal-caller has the passing pedigree, but his mobility wasn’t the first talking point. Then he’s in a game, rolling out, taking off and yelling at teammates, directing them to throw a block downfield. Sometimes that’s been Hurst, and it wasn’t something he’d seen before.
“That was actually kind of surprising because in practice, coach kind of blows an early whistle,” Hurst said. “He doesn’t want guys to get near the quarterback. But seeing Jake scramble like that adds more to what he does.”
Excluding sacks, Bentley has only run for 26 yards on six carries, though an ill-fated draw put a dent in those numbers. Still, he’s had a knack for taking off in third- or fourth-down situations, escaping quick defenders and making things happen.
He would have scored on a designed sweep had Hurst not committed a slight hold.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Bentley is probably a better athlete than he gets credit for, but the runs he’s had owe to something else.
“It’s more pocket presence and having the innate ability to feel a rush, to feel pressure, to feel where it’s open to be able to scramble to move yourself in the pocket,” Muschamp said. “Some guys have a very strong feel for that.”
Through the year, there was the sense fellow freshman Brandon McIlwain was the runner, while Bentley was the pocket passer. That’s not completely untrue, but Bentley has proven not to be a statue back there.
He’s thrown for 368 yards, four scores and zero picks in two games with a passer rating 165.5. He’s also gone 2-0 with an upset of a ranked Tennessee squad after forgoing his senior season of high school to enroll a year early.
At some point he’ll assuredly run into some bumpy situations, but he’s already shown his coaches he’s part of a group of quarterbacks with a certain acumen for the game.
“They keep their eyes downfield to not stare at the rush,” Muschamp said. “To move in the pocket the way you’re supposed to move in the pocket and understand the distribution of a four-man rush, a five-man rush, where you are protected and where you’re not protected. Again, a lot of that goes back into preparation. A lot goes into innate ability to have a pocket presence.”