The work of spring practice is over for South Carolina football.
But the work isn’t really over.
The team is officially broken up for summer, save for strength work with Jeff Dillman. Yet, there still are skills to be developed and honed, timing to get down and plenty of passes to be thrown before the Gamecocks hit the practice field again in August.
In short, quarterback Jake Bentley will be seeing plenty of his guys all summer.
“For the first part of summer, it’ll be twice a week,” Bentley said. “And then getting closer to fall camp three times a week and just really trying to get as many throws as we can. That’s the big thing.”
The Gamecocks passing game is in a peculiar spot going into 2018.
Bentley is back, with a year and a half of starting under his belt but coming off a sophomore season that was solid, yet not as outstanding as some predicted it would be. Four starting wide receivers are back, led by dynamic talent Deebo Samuel (six touchdowns in less than three games in 2017) and steady jump-ball machine in Bryan Edwards (793 yards last year).
Samuel missed much of the spring after missing the final 10 games of 2017. A shoulder limited Edwards in spots. Making up for that lost time is on the players, and the coaches are confident they’ll see that through.
“The good thing is we’ve got really good leadership,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ve got guys that are going to be accountable within our organization. I addressed our quarterbacks and receivers because Bryan missed a little time in spring, Deebo’s been in and out of spring. We’ve got to do a great job in the offseason of throwing and catching. That’s going to be huge for us.”
Bentley threw for 2,794 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his sophomore campaign. It’s the most yards since Dylan Thompson’s school-record 3,564 in 2014 and the seventh-most ever for a USC passer.
And that was in a season where things didn’t always go smoothly.
Beyond losing Samuel, the line had a smattering of issues with starters getting hurt, and Bentley had some issues with footwork. He admitted he was leaving some throws out on the field, and at least three of his interceptions came after miscommunications with receivers (a ball went where a route was supposed to go, but didn’t).
The incoming up-tempo, RPO-heavy offense run by Bryan McClendon should change things for him, and Dan Werner will be a different hand running things for the QBs.
Getting there means putting in work that's yet to come. Getting that organized falls on the quarterback, and Bentley said a focus is something that might catch fans’ interest.
“Really getting those deep balls down,” Bentley said. “No receiver just wants to run 50 deep balls a day. Just trying to be smart and getting the reps, we need to get better.”