South Carolina football: 5 reasons Gamecocks should turn this over to Scarnecchia
Jake Bentley is scheduled to start for South Carolina at quarterback on Saturday as it looks to continue its recent winning ways over Tennessee.
“No different than when we’ve talked to Jake before, Bentley will start, but he has to play well,” head coach Will Muschamp said on a Sunday media teleconference. “If we feel like we can make a change and make a positive contribution, we’ll do so.”
The South Carolina coach has left open the door for a change, but he also did that a couple of weeks before and kept Bentley in against Texas A&M, despite boos from the home fans and a sluggish first half.
Here are five reasons why Muschamp should turn to backup Michael Scarnecchia and make him the starter:
Muschamp has made this move before
Rewind to the circumstances around Bentley’s first game as a starter two years ago. Coming off a bye week, the Gamecocks were 2-4 and had all four losses in SEC play, similar to this season in which they’re 3-3, 2-3. The Gamecocks by that point in 2016 had yet to score more than 14 points in a game, and they were near the bottom of the country in several offensive statistical categories. Bentley was a freshman at the time, and while Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain didn’t have Bentley’s turnover troubles, they struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
Give him a chance to make mistakes
If Muschamp believes in the philosophy of risk-reward, he should at least give Scarnecchia a chance to make a mistake, at least as much as he does Bentley.
Before Scarnecchia had his most extended play of the season Oct. 6 against Missouri, Muschamp said of him: “When he’s had his opportunities, Mike’s thrown the ball extremely well. He repped a lot with our first team in training camp, obviously, for a situation that may arise on Saturday.”
He’s 27-for-47 for 338 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. A relatively small sample size, sure, but not insignificant.
Muschamp has preached over and over about turnovers and turnover margin, but the poster child for that on the team is Bentley. His 7 interceptions are still tied for the most in the SEC, even after Nick Fitzgerald, whom he’s tied with, threw 4 against LSU.
Sure, maybe all of them aren’t his fault, but that still means Bentley has been charged with more than half of the team’s 12 turnovers.
The offense needs a new wrinkle
Teams across the SEC, and college football at large, are increasingly playing a second quarterback at least for a few series each game, and some, such as Georgia, have managed to do it without much internal controversy.
Each week, Gamecocks freshman Dakereon Joyner has gained more confidence, and those close to the program suggested even two weeks ago that he could contribute. Joyner earlier passed redshirt freshman Jay Urich on the depth chart and traveled to Kentucky nearly a month ago.
“I think each quarterback is strong in what they do, and it’s our job as coaches to identify the things that they do well,” Muschamp said, “and let’s make sure we call the games and do the things that are their strengths.”
He already has the best win of the season
South Carolina can’t afford to lose another SEC game, much less in the division.
Of the Gamecocks’ wins — Coastal Carolina, Vanderbilt and Missouri — Scarnecchia has the best one, especially factoring in the weather that day. Even if you dismiss the Missouri game as being at home while Vanderbilt was on the road, the Tigers are 4-3 and the Commodores are 3-5. What’s more, South Carolina had 273 rushing yards against Vanderbilt and just 128 against Missouri.
As Muschamp recapped that day: “He played extremely well under duress, a tough situation, a first start. All of those things combined, he just managed things and played extremely well. He put the ball in the right spots and made really good decisions. I’m really proud of Mike.”