South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp expects his new quarterbacks coach and his sophomore quarterback to have a professional relationship on the field.
That won’t be a problem even though they are father and son, said Gamecocks starter Jake Bentley. Jake’s dad Bobby was moved to the quarterbacks coach position earlier this month when offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper was fired following the regular season. Bobby Bentley coached South Carolina’s running backs for Muschamp’s first 25 games as the Gamecocks head coach.
“We understand the relationship, but it’s different when you’re on the field,” Muschamp said. “It’s the coach-player relationship when you’re on the field, and we understand that.”
Still, it will have a higher comfort level than the usual coach-player relationship. Bobby Bentley has been teaching Jake Bentley to play quarterback since his son could hold a football.
“To have him there coaching me and fixing the fundamentals and everything about practice, just having him there has been great,” Jake said. “It’s been great to be with him. I know most of the time exactly what he’s going to say or what he’s thinking so it’s been fun.”
Jake Bentley was one of the highest-rated high school quarterbacks in the country before he signed with South Carolina, and he has started the last 19 games for the Gamecocks. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder needs just 25 more passing yards to become the 11th player in school history with 4,000 or more career passing yards and he will have two years of eligibility remaining as the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl against Michigan.
“I think that Jake has done a phenomenal job,” Muschamp said. “He has played very productive football for us. I have all the confidence in the world that he has all the confidence of his teammates. Certainly there are some balls he’d like to have back. He’d be the first one to tell you that because of his competitive edge and who he is.”
Bentley has completed 62.4 percent of his passes this year for 2,555 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. His father has focused on footwork and accuracy since taking over the quarterbacks coaching job, Jake said.
“Controlling my feet, slowing it down, not being so sporadic, under control more,” Jake said. “Doing a lot more footwork drills in our individual time at practice and then to really focusing on accuracy. If the ball’s not right there in front of them, he’s on me.”
Bobby Bentley gets onto all the quarterbacks just the same though, his son said.
“There’s a separation (between coach and dad). I think there has to be. He can’t teat me any differently than (Michael Scarnecchia) or Danny (Gordon) or Jay (Urich),” Jake said. “He’s had a lot of practice at it. He’s pretty good at it. At the dinner table, he’s kind of both. He asks, ‘How was your day?’ and then he brings up practice.”
Bobby Bentley’s quarterback coaching days go back further than Jake Bentley. His two oldest sons, Chas Dodd and Shuler Bentley, each played or are currently playing quarterback in college football.
“Bobby is the most qualified guy on our staff right now to coach quarterbacks,” said Muschamp, pointing out that Bobby Bentley has coached his sons in some capacity on the way to nine state high school championships while at Byrnes High School. “I think he’s more than qualified to do the job.”
Bobby Bentley will not be a candidate for the vacant offensive coordinator position but could remain the team’s quarterbacks coach next season. That would be his son’s pick for the job.
“That’s Coach Muschamp’s decision,” Jake said. “I’m just here playing quarterback, but obviously having my dad there is something that would be cool. We are kind of on the same page all the time.”
Bobby Bentley was not made available to the media to speak about his changing job duties, but his son did reveal one key way in which he behaves differently on the practice field than the Gamecocks’ other quarterbacks.
“I still call him dad on the practice field,” Jake said. “I’m not going to call him coach, that’d be weird.”