Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
QB Jake Bentley was instrumental in the Gamecocks' improvement last season.

In praise of Jake Bentley’s deep ball; potential pass-rush solutions to arrive on campus

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before … Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley is good. Like really, really good.

Pro Football Focus is the latest to sing the praises of the South Carolina quarterback, calling him out for outstanding completion percentage on deep passes. More than 10 percent higher than the SEC’s second-highest-rated passer!

RELATED: QB Jake Bentley is SEC’s best deep passer 

Bentley has gotten so much love this offseason that South Carolina fans are probably even sick of it (loljk, of course we’re not).

With a steady hand at the game’s most important position, the Gamecocks are yet again in a prime spot to exceed expectations.

RELATED: Shuler Bentley shares his unique perspective on Gamecocks, brother Jake Bentley 

The rising sophomore is much more than a talented signal caller; he’s become the face of a program that so desperately needed one following the departure of Steve Spurrier.

I don’t mean to thrust more pressure on to Bentley, but …

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WANTED: Pass rushers

Aaron Sterling-Tennessee recruiting
DE Aaron Sterling was rated as the nation’s No. 17 strongside defensive end in the Class of 2017. (Sam Spiegelman/SEC Country)

The Gamecocks will be welcoming several members of their latest signing class to campus later this month — and with those incoming freshmen come potential answers to the team’s pass-rush issues …

RELATED: Will Muschamp seeking pass-rush answers

“Aaron’s a guy we’re really excited about, was a very good player at Tucker, got to the state championship game,” coach Will Muschamp said of 2017 signee DE Aaron Sterling. “He’s got really great initial quickness. He’s a guy we’re expecting to come in and compete.”

Sterling is just one of the young players the Gamecocks are hoping to get early production out of in 2017.

A new favorite

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CB Jaycee Horn is one of the top defensive players on the Gamecocks’ board for 2018. (Chris Kirschner/SEC Country)

Four-star CB Jaycee Horn has a new leader in his recruitment …

RELATED: Alabama loses its lead for 4-star CB, NFL legacy to South Carolina 

“’Bama just fell off with the relationship,” the 2018 cornerback said of his previous favorite, Alabama. “They are making other corners in the state more of a priority than me. I know that I’m South Carolina’s No. 1 guy.”

Horn is the son of former New Orleans Saints WR Joe Horn.

Lesson learned

Nick Saban is arguably the best coach in college football today — so it should come as no surprise that in his years under Saban, Muschamp learned a thing or two.

RELATED: Will Muschamp reveals valuable coaching lesson gained from Nick Saban 

“When you see things alike and have healthy disagreements on what needs to happen, that happens with good staffs,” Muschamp said of the relationship with his staff. “When we were at LSU with Coach Saban, whether it was Jimbo Fisher, myself, there [were] great discussions, disagreements, that’s what good staffs do. As long as you’re on the same page when you walk out of the room, good things happen with you.”

On the mend

Zack Bailey-South Carolina-South Carolina football
OT Zack Bailey was a bright spot on the Gamecocks’ offensive line in 2016. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Coach Muschamp revealed on Tuesday that OT Zack Bailey was the only player needing surgery following spring practice.

RELATED: Zack Bailey recovering from thumb surgery 

The junior lineman is expected to be the anchor of the Gamecocks offensive line under new OL coach Eric Wolford.

“I like how we’ve gelled up front,” Muschamp said. “I think moving Zack Bailey to right tackle was a good move for us. We have pretty good competition at left tackle and competition inside. We have eight guys right now that we feel comfortable about on the offensive line.”

On the track

After making their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in March, the Gamecocks will once again find themselves on the track this Friday, courtesy of Bolen Motorsports.

RELATED: Gamecocks to feature again on NASCAR truck series 

“Really cool to see how this partnership with the university athletics department has all come together,” said Jeff Bolen, team owner and South Carolina alum. “To be able to showcase them and their accomplishments has been really neat.”

Tourney watch

South Carolina-Chad Holbrook
Chad Holbrook and his team will be looking for a much-needed series win this weekend. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

At 12-15 in conference play, the South Carolina baseball team is in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.

In the latest field of 64 projection, Baseball America lists South Carolina among the ‘first four out.’

“In the Southeastern Conference, South Carolina has now entered dangerous territory, having lost seven straight conference series,” wrote Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill. “While the Gamecocks still have the No. 31 RPI, they’re 12-15 in the conference and desperately need a series win against Georgia this weekend and likely a win or two in the SEC Tournament to seal an at-large bid.”