South Carolina’s second half of the season and performance on offense in the Birmingham Bowl give the Gamecocks confidence heading into spring practice, quarterback Jake Bentley says.
The Gamecocks lost 46-39 to South Florida in the bowl game but had 480 yards of total offense, including 390 through the air, to finish 6-7 in Will Muschamp’s first season as head coach.
Bentley was asked in an interview Wednesday on ESPN to give a scouting report heading into spring practice, which begins Feb. 25.
“I think we’re going to see a more explosive offense, just building on that bowl game,” Bentley said. “Defensively, I think we’ll be better, the second year in Muschamp’s system, with new guys coming in, guys returning that know what he wants defensively. I think we’ll be a far better team.”
Bentley as a true freshman threw for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns in seven starts, all coming in the team’s final seven games. He completed more than 65 percent of his throws and had four interceptions, two coming in the bowl loss to South Florida.
USC was 4-2 in the second half of the season after a 2-4 start to reach bowl eligibility.
“The whole season he was telling me to be ready,” Bentley said of Muschamp. “That bye week, he came up to me and said, ‘You’re going to get the one reps this week, and if you do good it’s yours. I guess I did all right that week and just went from there.”
Bentley credited timing as crucial to his success in 2016, including the improving health of leading receivers Deebo Samuel (783 yards) and Bryan Edwards (590 yards).
“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “Deebo got healthy. Bryan got healthy. Everything came together at the right time for me. Going from getting three reps at practice to getting all the reps was a great experience. I’m just glad I could help the team.”