South Carolina has played musical chairs with its quarterbacks for most of 2016, and it seems the music may have stopped with both Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain without a seat.
For the first time this season, head coach Will Muschamp is sliding true freshman quarterback Jake Bentley into a group of three passers competing to take the first snap under center after South Carolina’s bye week. Orth began the season as the team’s starter before his unseating in week three, which is when McIlwain took first team reps, a short-lived experiment.
McIlwain fizzled out after three starts and Orth took his starting position back in time for week six against Georgia. During that contest, Orth completed 28 of 36 passes for 288 yards and one interception, a stat line producing just eight yards per attempt, a paltry margin for a pro-style passer concerned with moving the ball through the air.
This performance led to a growing contingent of the SC faithful to clamor for the insertion of freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, the son of Gamecocks’ running back coach Bobby Bentley. The younger Bentley joined the program this year after skipping his senior season at Opelika (Ala.) High School and reclassifying to the 2016 recruiting class, expecting to take a redshirt this year but hoping to prove worthy of live game action… which is exactly what Muschamp may have in store for Bentley if the team’s bye week practices are any indication.
“All three quarterbacks repped today, we rotated all three,” Muschamp said on Carolina Calls. “We haven’t gotten enough reps at the position, multiple issues offensively. We need to get better at that position, so we repped all three guys.”
South Carolina currently has a trio of running backs that can take pressure away from the quarterback position in David Williams, A.J. Turner and Rico Dowdle, but none of the three have solidified the starting job as of the bye week. As can be seen, inconsistency from the running back position is just as much of a reason to press the quarterback issue.
To address the problem, Muschamp has recruited dual-threat quarterback Jay Urich from Piedmont (S.C.) Wren High School to join the Gamecocks. Muschamp was impressed by Urich’s ability to push the ball through the air and gain first downs on the ground.
Based on Urich’s highlight tape, which can be viewed on Hudl, the three-star shows he can throw to a spot and lead receivers under the belt but also the ability to zip passes into tight windows. When paired with his elusiveness when exiting the pocket, Urich has an arm that can keep defenses honest and push linebackers outside of the box. He has a bit of work to do with his mechanics, but he transfers weight well for a slim prospect at 6-foot-4 and 198-pounds.
This week, head coach Will Muschamp took a trip to visit SC wide receiver commit Shi Smith at Union for the talented four-star recruit’s game against Blue Ridge. Urich joined Muschamp in cheering on the dynamic athlete, and Union took the win, 46-3.
As can be seen by Urich’s twitter post, the future South Carolina quarterback is already building a rapport with one of the players he is enthused about having on his team in the future. If Urich can continue his success to the collegiate level, Muschamp should have similar enthusiasm in awarding the Wren prospect first team reps in practice when he arrives on campus in Columbia.