COLUMBIA, S.C. — Every rep, practice, workout and throwing session at South Carolina, Deebo Samuel knows what to expect from Jake Bentley.
“You don’t see anything different,” Samuel said, near the end of spring practice.
“You get the same thing, day in and day out.”
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards, who began his freshman year a few months before Bentley arrived to campus, said the South Carolina quarterback immediately had the coaches’ trust.
“He has always been one of those guys who has a moxie about him. He’s going to go out there and be aggressive,” Edwards said. “Coach (Kurt) Roper and coach (Will) Muschamp put all their trust in him to go out there and make those throws.
“He does it every day. Even when he came in last year, they trusted him to go out there and throw the deep ball.”
On the second play of the spring game, Bentley flashed that ability when he found Edwards for a 68-yard touchdown. It was one of 3 touchdown passes on the day for Bentley, who finished 19 of 31 for 301 yards with an interception.
“I have an expectation for him every day and that’s to improve and get better, which he does. He attacks it,” Muschamp said. “He understands the things he needs to do, to improve as a player. He goes about the day the right way every day, whether it’s the spring game or an offseason day.”
Roper, the Gamecocks’ offensive coordinator, told reporters before spring practice that it was a strike from Bentley to Edwards last season that reassured him Bentley was a “football player.”
“The moment that it hit me was the touchdown he threw to Bryan in the Tennessee game, on that slant,” Roper said. “Just the speed of the game and how fast he was able to process it, mentally, how fast he was able to do it, physically and then accurately — it was an impressive play.”
Thursday marks the 1-year anniversary of Bentley’s announcement that he would bypass his senior season in high school and enroll at South Carolina.
Building a better Bentley
Bentley arrived to Columbia later that summer, just in time to enter the quarterback competition with Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain, both of whom started before Bentley took over for good against Massachusetts.
What a difference a year makes.
“I definitely have a different role this year, as that leader now. Last year, I was just trying to come in and do my best, really,” Bentley said. “This year, there’s more pressure on us, because we’ve been here a year so people are going to expect more.
“But, really, there’s nothing different for us as an offense. We’ve just got to go out there and execute our game plan and just get better every day.”
Even though there were stumbles along the way against Clemson and Florida, Bentley doesn’t feel the need to hear what the critics say about his freshman season. He credits his teammates for helping to keep that stuff tuned out.
“All of my teammates are with me. If you surround yourself with people with the same goal, you really don’t hear anything else,” Bentley said. “We’re all working to get better and working to beat the (SEC) East and win the state. That’s everybody’s mindset on the team.”