HOOVER, Ala. (WSFA) - Jake Bentley made his third consecutive trip to SEC Media Days as he enters his senior season at South Carolina.
Bentley, the former Opelika Bulldog, talked about the area in which he’s seen himself grow the most from his final year at Opelika to now as he heads into his final year in Columbia.
“I think just maturity. I think whether that be, I kind of remember back freshman year we’re down 20-7 to Florida and I was on the bench kind of moping. I wasn’t playing good, just kinda sittin’ there like, ‘Man poor me. I’m not playing good,’ but now I just feel like, you know, senior year it’s my job to get us back goin'. I gotta go down the line, get the guys fired up, get ready to go," said Bentley.
In that 2016 loss to Florida, Bentley and the Gamecocks were being shutout 20-0 through three quarters. Bentley finished the game 18-33 for 213 yards and an interception. The Gamecocks dropped to 5-5 on the season and 3-5 in conference play. They would go on to finish that season 6-7.
The next season, Bentley led the Gamecocks to a 9-4 finish and an Outback Bowl win over the Michigan Wolverines. His junior season saw the Gamecocks take another step back. South Carolina only managed to win seven games, and lost a second bowl game in Bentley’s three seasons, but through it all, the former Opelika Bulldog’s maturity on the field grew. Maybe most notably during the middle of the 2018 season as his head coach pointed out.
“I would probably go back to last year during the middle of the season there when he didn’t play as well as he probably would have liked, and to be able to rebound and play as well as he played down the stretch certainly goes back into facing adversity, handling adversity, and then responding the right way and I think that’s a great example of who he is as a person,” said South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp.
Bentley and the Gamecocks started out last season 3-3. Through those six games Bentley was 101 for 167 for 1,151 yards to go along with 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions in five games played.
Before their bowl game loss to Virginia, Bentley led the Gamecocks to a 4-2 finish. In the regular season’s final six games, Bentley was 108 for 155 throwing for 1,573 yards. He threw 14 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. He had the game of his life when he threw for 510 yards and five touchdowns against the Clemson Tigers in the regular season closeout game for South Carolina.
Jake’s maturation has been something that’s made Muschamp secure in rolling with Bentley since his freshman year.
“I’ve been very comfortable since day one with Jake as far as he being a very mature guy, mature beyond his years, which, I think, is critical at that position at that player, but again he positively affects people around him," said Muschamp. "He has a calm, cool demeanor. He’s a great competitor. He has great toughness. He has all the intangible qualities you look for at that position,” said Muschamp.
Bentley and the Gamecocks open up their 2019 season Aug. 31 against North Carolina.