Why Jake Bentley over Michael Scarnecchia
South Carolina junior quarterback Jake Bentley was back at practice Tuesday morning and expects to be back in the starting lineup Saturday when the Gamecocks take on No. 22 Texas A&M.
“That’s the plan, for me to go out there and give it all I’ve got for my team,” Bentley said Tuesday. “I’ll be ready to go.”
Bentley and senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia learned that plan from coach Will Muschamp earlier this week, Bentley said. Scarnecchia started in place of the injured Bentley last week against Missouri and led the Gamecocks to a come-from-behind 37-35 victory over the Tigers while passing for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“If (Bentley) is healthy for Saturday, he will be the starter,” Muschamp said. “I told Jake and Mike that both of them need to be ready to go. We have two guys we can win with, and that’s good to have. He looked good today. I think he is going to be fine. We will continue to look at some mobility things.”
Bentley suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his left knee against Kentucky two weeks ago. He expects to wear a brace on his knee against the Aggies (4-2, 2-1 SEC) and may have to wear it the remainder of the season.
“I feel fine. I was full go today at practice,” he said. “I didn’t have anything that felt off, so I think I’m ready to go. I need to be able to show that I can escape the pocket and make things happen on my feet if I need to. It feels great right now. Wearing the brace, I’ll have to work through that, but nothing too serious.”
Bentley has completed 63.2 percent of his passes for 928 yards, seven touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He had started 24 consecutive games for South Carolina (3-2, 2-2) prior to last week.
“He has played a lot of really good football for us and he’s got a lot of experience,” Muschamp said. “I think he has played really well. Obviously, Mike has a smaller sample set, played well with his opportunity. I’m making the decision that helps us win, and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve got two guys that we have confidence that we can win with. I feel comfortable with both guys.”
Scarnecchia will be ready if called upon Saturday, he said.
“Coach told me the same thing he’s always told me, which is to prepare like I’m the starter, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do,” the senior said. “The coaches have always told me they had all the confidence in the world in me. That meant a lot to me, but to go out there and show my team I could do it meant a lot, too.”
Scarnecchia had never started a collegiate game until Saturday.
“You forget the feeling of what it’s like playing the game,” he said. “I have practiced for a long time now. I didn’t have any anxiety going in. I was excited to get out there and get some reps. I knew what I could do and I had confidence in myself.”
Muschamp did not rule out making a change during the game against the Aggies.
“We will make decisions in the game to win the game,” Muschamp said.