COLUMBIA, S.C. — Last week, all Will Muschamp had to say about South Carolina’s decision at quarterback was “we have a good plan.”
This week, the South Carolina coach has been much more open.
Muschamp confirmed on his weekly radio show that Jake Bentley will start Saturday against No. 18 Tennessee (7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN). He also said Brandon McIlwain will play, which was the case last week in the Gamecocks’ 34-28 win against Massachusetts.
“Moving forward, we need both of those guys to play well,” Muschamp said. “We need both of those guys to continue to develop well. The work ethic and the competitive edge and all the intangibles with both guys is there. We can be very successful moving forward.
“I told everybody before the season, the future of our program is as good as anywhere in the country. I still feel that way.”
Bentley started for the first time last Saturday, making his debut as a true freshman midway through the season. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns, doubling the number of passing scores on the season for USC.
McIlwain saw playing time in short-yardage and red zone packages, rushing 5 times for 17 yards. The freshman has not had a high volume of success throwing the ball downfield this season, ranking near the bottom of the FBS with a 52.8 completion percentage in seven games.
Muschamp insisted he has faith in McIlwain’s throwing abilities.
“Brandon throws an extremely good deep ball,” Muschamp said. “He is very accurate vertically down the field. In his start against East Carolina, he had two really nice vertical balls to Randrecous (Davis) and to Bryan (Edwards). We’ve got all the confidence in the world (in him).”
The decision to primarily pass with Bentley and exclusively run McIlwain against UMass came down to playing to their respective strengths, Muschamp said.
“We will continue to build things around them that they do well,” he said. “The good thing is both of them do a lot of things well. … There’s no doubt they complement each other. Moving forward, both of them playing benefits South Carolina.”