Gus Malzahn just signed a new deal with Auburn that will pay him, on average, $7 million a year for seven seasons. Chad Morris just signed on to be Arkansas’ new head coach for $21 million over six years.
So, what does any of that have to do with South Carolina’s football team? Maybe nothing, or…
While Malzahn was tearing through Arkansas with a high-powered offense as a high school head coach and Morris was doing the same thing in Texas, Bobby Bentley was dominating South Carolina’s Class 4A at Byrnes High School. All three were high school head coaches for roughly the same time period. Morris from 1994 to 2009 at five Texas high schools, Malzahn from 1992 to 2005 at three Arkansas high schools, and Bentley from 1995 to 2006 and then again in 2013 at Byrnes.
Bentley, most South Carolina fans know, is now South Carolina’s running backs coach, and the Gamecocks are looking for an offensive coordinator after firing Kurt Roper on Wednesday.
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While Malzahn and Morris both got their collegiate starts as offensive coordinators, Bentley already has limited collegiate experience but none coordinating an FBS offense. After a two-year stint as the head coach at Presbyterian from 2007-2008, Bentley returned to Byrnes in a handful of capacities from 2009-2013 before joining Malzahn’s staff as an offensive assistant (but not an on-field coach) in 2014. After two years in that job, Bentley came to South Carolina along with Muschamp in 2016, and he has served as the Gamecocks running backs coach the last two seasons.
Bentley’s offensive track record in high school was just as impressive as Malzahn’s and Morris’ ... if not more impressive. His offense-powered Byrnes teams won four straight state titles and pumped out collegiate quarterbacks with regularity. In 2013, his son Shuler Bentley set the South Carolina state record with 71 touchdown passes in his senior season.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp hasn’t met with the media since announcing his decision to fire Roper, so few people know what he’s thinking in terms of his next hire. Muschamp won’t announce his decision, and may not make his decision, until after the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl.
Bentley is not the only possible OC candidate already on South Carolina’s staff. In fact, co-offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon might be higher on Muschamp’s list than Bentley given that McClendon will be coordinating the offense and calling the plays for the bowl game.
But Bentley has something McClendon doesn’t, at least not yet, and that’s play-calling experience. While McClendon will be totally in charge of the plays for the first time against Michigan in the Outback Bowl (and what a trial by fire facing Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown in your initial outing, but we’ll talk more about that as the game gets closer), Bentley has more than a decade of play-calling experience.
He also has one more factor that might help him turn around the South Carolina offense, and that’s his relationship to the starting quarterback. It’s likely no coincidence that Jake Bentley, one of the nation’s most highly recruited high school quarterbacks, signed with the Gamecocks after his father was hired by Muschamp. Jake Bentley spent his formative years, basically all of his years, playing in his dad’s offensive system and is intimately familiar with the scheme.
No one knows if Bobby Bentley’s offensive system would work at the major college level with Bentley calling the shots, but the same thing could have been said about Malzahn and Morris a while back.
It’s at least something for Muschamp to think about.