How SC QBs have fared in Year 2 as starter ... and what that might mean for Bentley
Not since 2011, when South Carolina gave the majority of its quarterback snaps to Connor Shaw, were the Gamecocks in the kind of position they face entering this season.
That season, Shaw was 123-for-188 passing for 1,448 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions as a sophomore. The Gamecocks went 11-2 and finished No. 9 in the final Associated Press poll.
Finding a quarterback to excel in his second season in the years before and after Shaw has been a fleeting proposition.
By and large, it’s been a mixed bag for quarterbacks since Steve Spurrier’s first season in 2005.
The expectation to be on par with the likes of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson is facing Jake Bentley this season as he enters Year 2 as starter after passing for 1,420 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions when he took over midway through last season.
Bentley’s emergence has offered optimism to a fan base yearning for a reliable starter since Shaw.
Here’s a look at the key numbers for Year 2 QBs:
[table “” not found /]
In the years since Shaw departed, Dylan Thompson had the most significant impact among a group that includes Perry Orth, Lorenzo Nunez and Connor Mitch. But it really took Thompson a third season to find his groove after he attempted 127 passes in 2012, and 89 in 2013. In ’14, Thompson was 270-for-451 passing for 3,564 yards, with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. That was by far the best statistical season for a Gamecock quarterback since the Spurrier era began. Only one other time (Stephen Garcia as a junior in 2010) did a quarterback top 3,000 yards passing.
Given the program’s history, it’s reasonable to expect Bentley to improve on his 2016 campaign, and pass for in the neighborhood of 2,000-plus yards. If you take out Thompson’s 2013 aberration, half of the quarterbacks to have significant snaps in their second season at the helm did more than that. (Shaw received the majority of the snaps in 2013, his third season, when he passed for 2,447 yards, 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.) For perspective, in the past five seasons, the top 10 quarterbacks each season in the SEC have passed for at least 1,900 yards.
Given Thompson’s performance in 2012 and Shaw’s campaign in 2013, Gamecock fans might especially look forward to Bentley’s third season.