USC Gamecocks Football

How Bentley’s presence is still impacting Gamecock QBs Joyner, Hilinski

To the outside world, South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley has become a bit of a ghost.

The South Carolina senior hasn’t spoken publicly since his foot injury at the end of the UNC game in late August. His social media accounts have been silent since the start of August. He’s usually on the sidelines during home games, but it’s been two weeks since one of those and he didn’t make the trip to Athens last week for the Georgia game.

It’s a radio quiet moment for a player who was the face of a program. But it’s not that way behind the scenes.

“Jake is here every day,” senior center Donell Stanley said. “I still talk to him the same. He still has a good, positive attitude. He’s encouraging guys like a leader should.”

Bentley’s QB teammates have been through a lot the past few weeks.

Ryan Hilinski had a rough first road start, played solid against Kentucky and was holding his own against Georgia before a knee sprain knocked him out of the game. Dakereon Joyner missed two weeks with a hamstring issue, then was pressed into action to lead the Gamecocks to their biggest win in more than half a decade.

That’s a lot on the shoulders of two players in their first two seasons on campus. Neither was supposed to be in that spot.

And Bentley, who also was thrown into the fire unexpectedly early in his career, is there for them.

“He’s in every meeting,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “And his experience as a freshman, his experience in three years, has certainly been beneficial for the entire room. As far as both Ryan, Dakereon and Jay (Urich).”

Bentley can share was he’s seen, what happened to him and what he went through.

He opened the season within striking distance of a few major program records. Against a tough schedule, there were lingering questions about winning a big game and life after Deebo Samuel’s departure from the NFL.

Then came the disastrous 2019 opener against North Carolina when he threw for 142 yards with a pair of interceptions down the stretch. His future is uncertain, with Hilinski seeming to assert himself at the position.

Muschamp was asked this week if there was any chance Bentley would be able to return for a bowl game. The answer: The son of South Carolina’s tight ends coach would not be able to put weight on his foot for three months or cleared for football for five to six months minimum.

So for now, Bentley is still around, still in the building, sharing what he can with younger players and adding a little something to their experience.

“It’s easier when you have a peer to talk to as opposed to a coach, in my opinion,” Muschamp said.

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