The sometimes inconsistent signal caller has nevertheless been a steadying hand for the Gamecocks offense, starting all but one game since the middle of his freshman year. Even when a backup won a game in his stead, the staff went back to him with little question. But that is set to come to an end soon.
When he’s gone, the current staff loses the only constant presence at quarterback it has had for four seasons. Earlier this week, the team’s succession plan and its future at the position was called one of the best in the country by CBS writer Barton Simmons.
And Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp likes what he sees there.
“Dakereon (Joyner) from Year 1 to Year 2 really improved,” Muschamp said. “I really liked some of the things he’s bringing to the table for us. Ryan (Hilinski) had a really good spring. And Jay Urich is a guy that athletically is going to do some other things for us but is a guy we’ve got confidence in in the quarterback room. We feel good about our future there.”
Joyner and Hilinski both came to Columbia as four-star prospects. They got the lion’s share of the work in the spring game, while Urich split time at wide receiver.
That trio will be joined by Luke Doty, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound dual-threat passer who led Myrtle Beach High to a state title in his first season as starter.
Hilinski and Doty are both top-100 recruits in their respective classes.
Bentley has thrown for more than 7,000 yards in his career and sits less than 2,600 yards short of the school record. Assuming he’s healthy, he’ll almost assuredly leave Columbia with the program record for touchdowns.
It’s a far cry from where things stood in 2015 when Muschamp and his staff arrived.
The staff had to scramble to hold onto Elite 11 QB Brandon McIlwain and added Bentley in the summer after he decided to skip his senior season. Former four-star recruit Connor Mitch transferred after the staff’s first spring, and Michael Scarnecchia was sidelined by a shoulder injury.
That meant the Gamecocks started former walk-on Perry Orth, transitioned to McIlwain, who posted a 99.2 rating, and finally had Bentley step in and stabilize things.
And with a completely new set of faces after the 2019 season, they’ll aim to continue that.
“We’ve changed the room and feel really good about the future at that position at the University of South Carolina,” Muschamp said. “There’s no doubt about it. Feel really comfortable.”