By Jeff Owens/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
GREENWOOD — As Will Muschamp travels the state, visiting Gamecock Club events on his Spurs Up Tour, there are some constant themes.
Muschamp reiterates his passion and excitement for the program he is building. He updates fans on the progress of key players and offers his assessment of the offense and defense.
But there is one topic that Muschamp loves to talk about, one player that he makes sure to mention and praise.
Bentley, who took over as starting quarterback as a true freshman last year, holds the key to the South Carolina offense and fans love to hear about his progress.
Bentley, who threw for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns in seven games, will be busy this summer as he prepares for his second season. He'll be on campus, studying film and helping run player-run practices. He is already working with receivers Deebo Samuel and Brian Edwards, tight end Hayden Hurst and other offensive players.
"His leadership within the offense and our football team is critical, and I know the respect that his teammates have for him," Muschamp said prior to meeting with the Greenwood Gamecock Club.
"You don't ever want to ask someone to be something that they are not, but he does have outstanding leadership ability, so he needs to continue to be more vocal to positively effect his teammates."
Bentley has also been invited to participate as a coach and counselor at Peyton and Eli Manning's Manning Passing Academy at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. this summer. The camp, run by the Manning family, helps young players learn the proper fundamentals for quarterbacks and other offensive players.
"It's certainly excited for Jake," Muschamp said. "That's a great honor to go out and be with Peyton and Eli and the Manning family."
Throughout the Spurs Up Tour, Muschamp has reiterated that there are few unknowns on offense, where Bentley leads a strong contingent of highly skilled and explosive players. The key, of course, is the development of the sophomore quarterback.
"He continues to progress mentally and do the things that we've got to do to be successful," Muschamp told more than 300 fans at the Greenwood County Gamecock Club. "There were some frustrating times when you are playing a freshman quarterback, and we played two. … There was a lot of youth on the field. Now, in the second year, to see the progress the offense has made and what Jake has done, I'm really excited about that.
"He's a good football player and he played extremely well his freshman year and the way he is working and the time and effort he is putting in, and the people he has around him, I'm certainly excited about this fall."