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Column: Jake Bentley era should start now for South Carolina

Photo Credit: Katie Dugan, 247Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks are 2-4 overall and 1-4 in SEC play. They’ve lost three games in a row and after this weekend’s contest against 1-6 Massachusetts, things aren’t going to get any easier.

The Gamecocks are looking ahead to games against No. 18 Tennessee, Missouri, No. 15 Florida, Western Carolina and No. 4 Clemson. Of the aforementioned games, only UMass and Western Carolina seem like true winnable games for South Carolina. Even 2-4 Mizzou should provide the them with a stiff challenge.

So perhaps its time to change some things up. Perhaps it’s time to inject some fresh blood into the equation.

And that’s exactly what South Carolina is considering, according to Josh Kendall of thestate.com.  Kendall reports the Gamecocks are considering starting true freshman Jake Bentley this weekend against UMass.

“The indications that true freshman Jake Bentley is going to get his shot are growing stronger and stronger,” Kendall reports. “It’s important to note that even if the plan early in the week is to start Bentley, this is the kind of decision that coaches could get nervous about as the moment of truth draws nearer. So even if the Gamecocks prep Bentley all week to be the starter, if they don’t like what they see or simply rethink their decision, they could go back to senior Perry Orth, who could be reasonably expected to execute the game plan without much prep work during the week.”

Muschamp and his staff may lose some sleep over the prospect of starting Kendall. Keep in mind they’d have to burn his redshirt to do so, but at this point, why not? The Gamecocks need to change things up if they want to get anything going this season, and perhaps they’ll find something in Kendall that they haven’t seen from any of their other quarterbacks so far.

10 September 2016: South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley (4) before the Mississippi State Bulldogs 27-14 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire).

(Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire).

If he plays well, maybe that leads to a few more wins and some momentum heading into an all-important year two of the Muschamp era. If he plays well, maybe he gets a lot of those early-career jitters and mistakes out of the way and heads into his sophomore season ready to lead the Gamecocks to a much higher level of football.

A this point, what do the Gamecocks have to lose?

When a team has won only two games halfway through the season, it’s somewhat unfair to focus on just one aspect of the game when evaluating said team’s struggles. With that said, it’s South Carolina offense that deserves much of the blame for this season.

The Gamecocks have been outscored 121-81 this season and are one of only three teams in college football to have yet to score 100 points this season — joining Buffalo and UTEP. In fact, out of 128 teams ranked for scoring offense in 2016, South Carolina is ranked dead last at No. 128.

South Carolina is ranked last in the SEC in rushing offense, putting up only 92.33 yards per game and naturally, last in the SEC in scoring offense. The Gamecocks are a bit better in passing offense, ranked No. 9 in the SEC, but they’re still only passing for 212.2 a game, throwing for two touchdowns as a team compared to three interceptions.

Nobody else has been able to get the job done for the Gamecocks, and at the very least Bentley does have some high expectations to live up to. At the very least, he can create some excitement for South Carolina.

Bentley is a former four-star quarterback, ranked as the No. 10 pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class and the No. 5 recruit from the state of Alabama. If the rankings don’t tell the full story of his potential his offer list does. He had 22 offers in total, with schools such as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Nebraska and Stanford, among others, all believing that he was worth a scholarship.

South Carolina has been hiding a quarterback behind a redshirt who was asked to play for some of the best college football programs in the nation, and if there was a week to start him and get his feet wet, it’s this week.

It would be certainly unwise to give Bentley his first start against Tennessee, but UMass is a manageable opponent. The Minutemen are giving up 468.6 yards per game, including 262.4 through the air. They’ve given up 14 passing touchdowns and have only notched two interceptions.

If South Carolina is ready to turn the page to the Bentley era, there’s no better time than now.

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