Will Muschamp threw water on any discussion of a quarterback debate in Columbia by opening his Tuesday media availability by announcing that Jake Bentley would be South Carolina’s starting quarterback against Texas A&M if he’s healthy enough to play.
This decision comes after redshirt senior backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia started the Missouri game and outplayed touted NFL prospect Drew Lock on Saturday. Scarnecchia completed 20 of his 35 throws for 249 yards and three scores in the game. He also led the Gamecocks down the field in the final drive of the game, which resulted in the game-winning field goal by Michael Parker.
Despite Scarnecchia’s strong showing, Muschamp is turning over the keys of the offense to Bentley.
“Jake practiced today, I thought he looked good. If he’s healthy for Saturday, he’ll be the starter but I’ve told Jake and Mike that both need to be ready to go,” Muschamp said on Tuesday. “We have two guys we can win with and that’s good.”
Muschamp was then asked a follow-up question regarding how long the team will take to make the final decision on the starting quarterback role. Last week, South Carolina waited until game day to name Scarnecciah as the starter.
Could the decision take that long this week?
“No, I think it will be determined before that. (Bentley) looked good today,” Muschamp reiterated. “I think he’s going to be fine and I think at the end of the day, we’ll continue to look at some mobility things but again, I’m not going to put a young man in a situation where he can’t protect himself and he couldn’t on Saturday. Mike performed really well — a guy we have a lot of confidence in going into the game and even more so, obviously, after it. At the end of the day, we’ll make decisions in the game to win the game.”
Finally, the South Carolina coach offered up these comments when asked why he’s going with Bentley over Scarneccia.
“Well, (Jake’s) played a lot of really good football for us. He’s got a lot of experience and I think he’s played really well,” Muschamp said. “Obviously, Mike has a smaller sample size, played well with his opportunity but I’m making a decision on what I think helps us win and at the end of the day, that’s what we are going to do. We have two guys we have confidence we can win with, I feel comfortable with both guys.”
In the new era of college football transfers, particularly at the quarterback position, Muschamp has to walk a fine line here. He can’t afford to alienate Bentley but at the same time, if the Gamecocks lose and the locker room and the fans start calling for Scarneccia to go back into the starting lineup, how will Muschamp handle that noise?
The decision to go with Bentley will be something to watch this weekend and the ramifications it could have on the second half of the Gamecocks’ season could be huge.