Sports fans and consumers will often attach themselves to a fact or a number to epitomize the feelings of the moment.
When South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley’s season was at its darkest point in 2018, as the team struggled through six games, the junior had thrown the most interceptions in the SEC, and many fans were keen to bring it up. USC was 3-3, just off a tight loss to Texas A&M that featured a pick on a pass into the end zone.
On that front, Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp has seen some progress.
“I think Jake, again, the No. 1 thing going into the spring is taking care of the football,” Muschamp said in an interview with SportsTalk. “He hasn’t had an interception in a team period in the first five practices.
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“I think that he’s been very consistent, and that’s what we want to see, a consistent performer. You’ve got good enough people around you. Direct the offense the way you’re certainly capable of doing.”
After that bad start, Bentley cut down on the picks for a five-game stretch before they flared up again, with four against Akron and Virginia. In the latter game, both were forced, a player trying to do too much as his offense was frustrated all afternoon.
He’s now coming closer to the end of a career with a lot of elements. He came in as a player who skipped a year of high school, had a redshirt torn away and was handed the keys to an offense with a different coordinator and patchwork talent in a variety of spots.
His class contained some of the current bedrock players of the offense, and he took a look back as to how things have changed.
“It’s light years ahead of where we were,” Bentley said. “That simply just comes down to experience of guys just being together for going on four years now. It does feel like I just got here, and it’s crazy to see just the development, guys like Bryan (Edwards), (Sadarius Hutcherson), just how they’re bodies have changed. It’s just been a cool experience and it’s going to be a fun senior year for us.”
Fourteen members of the class are still around. At least nine project as starters or near-starters next season.
Bentley comes into his final campaign 2,568 yards and seven touchdowns short of the program records. His seasons have been up and down, saving a bowl campaign his first year, nine wins his second and all the rockiness of his third.
Soon enough, he’ll be playing out a final season on campus. It’s not yet clear how he’ll be remembered, if some little fact with stick with him like it often does. But he hopes something else, something fans somewhat see but don’t often focus off, is what he’s remembered for.
“I haven’t really had time to think about that,” Bentley said. “But I think for the most part, a hardworking guy that gave it all for his teammates and did whatever he did could to win games, just competed each and every day in the film room and the classroom, on the field.”