Jake Bentley may not be able to play against Missouri because of an injury, but if he is, he will start for South Carolina with the complete faith and backing of his Gamecocks teammates.
That was the message from USC coach Will Muschamp and several players Tuesday as the team addressed Bentley’s status for the Missouri game and the type of season the junior quarterback has had through four games. The Gamecocks (2-2 overall, 1-2 SEC) take on the Tigers (3-1, 0-1) at noon Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
Bentley is “probable” for the game after suffering a minor knee injury against Kentucky last week, Muschamp said. That injury is the only thing at this point that will take playing time away from the player who has started the last 24 games for South Carolina.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Muschamp responded when asked if he had confidence in his starting quarterback.
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Bentley has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 928 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions. He is 15-9 as a starter and second in school history in completion percentage in career completion percentage (63.4 percent), but he’s also thrown 22 interceptions in his career and his six interceptions this season are more than any player ranked among the SEC’s top 14 quarterbacks. (Missouri’s Drew Lock has thrown 161 passes this year compared to Bentley’s 132 and has only thrown two interceptions.)
Bentley’s teammates, though, stand fully behind him, two offensive linemen said Tuesday.
“Absolutely. Absolutely. I love Jake,” senior Blake Camper said. “Jake’s a competitor. He’s one of our biggest leaders, and we trust him with everything. Just like the coaches say, he’s one of our leaders and we really appreciate him. When he goes through adversity, he’s one of the first guys to say, ‘Alright guys, let’s pick it up.’ That’s a big thing. During the Kentucky game, I don’t think there was any panic in him, which is obviously what you want in a starting quarterback.”
Zack Bailey said he and his line mates have confidence in both Bentley and senior Michael Scarnecchia.
“Whichever quarterback wants to play, they are going to play and we have confidence in both of them,” Bailey said. “Scar, Jake, Dakereon, Jay, it doesn’t matter. I am going to support whichever one they chose. I trust Jake. Put my life on it. I trust Scar. Put my life on it. I trust all of them. We are a family.”
Muschamp’s confidence in Bentley comes from the way he operates South Carolina’s offensive system, Muschamp said.
“He didn’t play well the other night. We didn’t throw and catch it very well against Kentucky, we’ll call it like it is. It wasn’t all on him, you know,” Muschamp said. “At the end of the day, our football team, our players, myself, have 110 percent confidence in Jake and how he’ll perform Saturday.”
Missouri’s passing defense is ranked 13th in the SEC, allowing 293.8 yards per game.
“We’re going to work on what we need to work on,” Camper said, “and I’m sure (Bentley) is going to work on what he needs to work on and come out this week and do what we need to do to put the best performance we can against Missouri.”