Jake Bentley can shift narrative that Will Muschamp can't develop quarterbacks
If you kept up with Jake Bentley’s offseason development, you probably liked what you saw. Will Muschamp had some glowing remarks for the sophomore quarterback about his improvement since spring ball.
“More command and overall knowledge, getting people lined up, redirecting the protection,” Muschamp said via The State. “It’s a different player at quarterback right now as far as his knowledge of what we do and what we need to be successful.”
“I think he’s a calming influence for our offense as far as getting a receiver on or off the ball, getting a tight end in the right spot, redirecting the protection,” Muschamp said. “We’re putting a lot on his plate, deservedly so.”
If you’re a South Carolina fan, you can’t help but be encouraged. The Gamecocks want nothing more than for their promising quarterback to take the next step in Year 2 (what should be his real freshman season). Historically speaking, the odds are in his favor, especially for someone who was so accurate:
Jake Bentley was sharp with the football in his debut season for South Carolina. pic.twitter.com/hcL8EQKOSm
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) August 13, 2017
But there’s another force working against Bentley. At least when it comes to history.
Muschamp’s inability to develop prized quarterback recruits ultimately resulted in his firing after four years at Florida. He’s had guys like 5-star John Brantley and Jeff Driskel, as well as 4-star quarterbacks like Jacoby Brissett. For one reason or another, Muschamp couldn’t find or develop his guy.
Entering his sixth season as a head coach, Muschamp’s defensive roots can’t be used as an excuse if another talented quarterback fizzles out under his watch.
On the field, the impact of Bentley’s success is obvious. With some dynamic outside weapons in Deebo Samuel and Hayden Hurst, there’s optimism that the Gamecocks can sneak up on some teams and win eight games.
Would that be a major difference from last year’s six-win campaign? Not really, but if Bentley has the year many expect him to, it could have big long-term implications for Muschamp in the recruiting world.
Signing the high-profile quarterback recruits hasn’t been a problem for Muschamp. In addition to the aforementioned Driskel and Brissett, Muschamp landed the likes of Will Grier, Treon Harris, Brandon McIlwain and obviously Bentley. That’s not a bad list of names for a guy who’s only entering his sixth season as a head coach.
But sooner or later, he needs one of those guys to be his year-long, no-questions-asked starter. If I’m a recruiter and I know Muschamp’s staff is pushing hard for a blue-chip quarterback recruit, I list the following stats:
Muschamp’s six QB recruits rated 4 stars or better have …
- One 2,000-yard season
- Never thrown for more than 12 TD passes in a season
- Never earned first/second-team All-SEC honors
- Never been drafted after final season with Muschamp
- All transferred (with the exception of Bentley)
And in case that wasn’t enough, anybody recruiting against Muschamp will probably point out how Brissett and Driskel both starred after leaving Florida and were eventually drafted.
Any way you slice it, there’s plenty of ammo against Muschamp when it comes to developing quarterbacks. Obviously he’s going to lean heavily on offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to make sure Bentley doesn’t become another wasted talent. But there’s still a certain responsibility that falls on a head coach when it comes to dealing with a starting quarterback.
Muschamp made the decision to bring Bentley to SEC Media Days. Never mind the fact that he should technically be entering his true freshman season in 2017. As Muschamp said, they’re putting a lot on Bentley’s plate because they believe he can handle it. The son of a coach, he sees the game differently, he understands leadership and he’s not afraid to speak his mind (Clemson fans might not agree with him on that).
The challenge for Muschamp is finding how bring the best out in him. Does he lay into Bentley when he throws two picks before halftime? Or does Muschamp let Bentley collect himself and work through his mistakes? Those are the little things that could make a big difference in an all-important Year 2 for Bentley and Muschamp.
One good season won’t overshadow Muschamp’s entire history of ineffective quarterbacks, but it’d be a start. And from the look of it, Bentley looks up for the task.