Foot surgery is going to put South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley on the shelf for the rest of what should have been his senior season.
But even after getting the news, he hasn’t exited the building.
The longtime Gamecocks starter has been present and interacting with the rest of the players, his teammates said Monday. He got a second opinion on a mid-foot injury last Friday, a week after hurting it against North Carolina, and USC coach Will Muschamp announced his season was over this Sunday.
Several fellow Gamecocks said they hurt for him.
“Jake is a very strong person.” tailback Rico Dowdle said. “I hate it for him, but he’s been every meeting. He’s taking it how he’s supposed to take it. You just can’t get down on yourself, obviously, dealing with injuries and just got to keep going and gonna get better each day. And like I said, he’s taken it very well, handled it very well. Still in all the meetings, still being vocal as much as he can be when he’s around the building and things like that.”
Dowdle admitted the team knew it was a strong possibility after the initial diagnosis had him out for at least a month and a half. The team prepared for every outcome and has a good deal of confidence in Bentley’s replacement, Ryan Hilinski.
Bentley came into this season with more than 30 starts and 19 career wins under his belt. He’d taken the Gamecocks to three bowl games and was within striking distance of program records for passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Now he has to support the team in a different way. He can still lend his perspective to Hilinski and backup quarterback Dakereon Joyner, seeing a little something with veteran eyes they might not.
“I’ve talked to him,” linebacker Ernest Jones said. “He’s a positive guy. We’re all behind him. It kind of sucks. It hurts. He’s a leader of this team. He’s done a lot for this program and we’re thankful for everything he’s done. He’s taken it well though. He’s not too down on himself. There’s a plan for everybody and that just so happened to be him.”
Jones added Bentley is still part of the team, ‘whether he knows it or not,’ and he’s still a No. 1 guy.
For the rest of the year, it should be Hilinski’s show. The former top-75 recruit showed well in his first game against an FCS opponent but will get dunked into an SEC schedule with Alabama this week.
Bentley will have a chance at a final college season in 2020, but how things settle with that season are yet to be seen.
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards declined when asked to compare Hilinski and Bentley as leaders. He said this year, they don’t have Bentley. It’s not so tough to deal with, and they just have to look forward.
“He’s not there, so we’ve got to move on,” Edwards said. “I’m out there catching passes from Ryan, so it’s not tough to see or gauge or anything like that.”