Jake Bentley will never know his new quarterbacks coach as well as he knew his old one, but South Carolina’s junior quarterback and his new position coach are getting comfortable with each other.
“I think the big thing is having a relationship outside of football,” Bentley said of rapport with first-year quarterbacks coach Dan Werner.
Werner was hired in June to take the quarterbacks coaching job vacated when Kurt Roper was fired in December. South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley, Jake’s dad, coached the quarterbacks and his son in bowl practice and in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl. Now, he’s getting used to Werner, who was an offensive analyst at Alabama and the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss before coming to South Carolina.
“We have had a couple of recruiting outings and been able to spend time just sitting next to each other at lunch or dinner,” Bentley said. “He took us all out to eat. Getting to know him better off the field helps us better communicate on the field. I believe in (coach Will) Muschamp and (offensive coordinator Bryan) McClendon and what they have in store for us, and they brought in coach Werner so, right off the bat, I am going to listen to everything he has to say and just try to soak it all in.”
Werner has not spoken to the media since being hired.
“It’s always great to have a different way of saying things. It could be the same teaching point but it could be the way coach Werner says it hits a different way and you understand it a little bit better,” Bentley said. “It’s a fresh set of eyes, a different way to learn the same thing.”
Bentley and Werner have had three spring practices together so far, and Bentley already can tell that the Gamecocks offense is going to run a lot more RPO (run-pass option) plays in 2018.
“For sure,” Bentley said. “That’s kind of been his big thing coming in, really dissecting the RPO and really getting us to understand the ins and outs of everything, of when to throw it, when to hand it off, what looks are best for what RPOs. Getting to pick his brain in that aspect has been great. Really the big thing is one-on-one matchups. He wants to take advantage of them. That’s been his forte.”
Werner won’t call plays for the Gamecocks. That role has been taken over by McClendon, but Werner still is expected to have a big impact on the South Carolina offense.
“He’s had a lot of success with quarterbacks,” Bentley said. “I have always known his big things are the RPOs and one-on-one matchups. That’s what he loves to exploit. He wants to give the receivers a chance to go make a play.”
Bentley has started 20 consecutive games for South Carolina. He threw for 2,794 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year while completing 62.2 percent of his passes.
“Numbers are important and touchdowns are important for a lot of media guys and scouts maybe, but for me, I am just trying to win games,” Bentley said. “We increased the wins from two years ago to last year, and I think it’s time as a team to really take the next step. Coach Muschamp talks all the time about how the improvement has been great but we still haven’t accomplished our two big goals. That’s what we’re going to try to do this year.”
McClendon is hopeful Bentley plays well enough this year that he has to decide whether to enter the NFL draft or return for his senior season, McClendon said last year.
“Everybody’s got room for improvement, but did he progress from one year to the next? Absolutely, and we’re going to ask him to progress a lot more from last year to this season,” McClendon said. “Hopefully, he has a good enough season where he has a choice (about the NFL), but hopefully he stays around and progresses going into the next year.”