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South Carolina facing unexpected questions at quarterback

Jake Bentley

In Columbia, the mantra after success or failure has been, “so what, what’s next?”

Will Muschamp has been doing his best to impress upon his team, no matter the circumstances, how the Gamecocks respond in the moment — to everything — will determine not only their present, but their future. Applying that to the 3-3 Gamecocks in their open week this season, puts the program in a problematic spot.

Back in July, Jake Bentley was the undisputed face of the South Carolina football program. The junior quarterback represented the Gamecocks at SEC Media Days and was touted as a shining example of the experienced quarterbacks returning to the conference.

So what, what’s next?

Bentley was praised as the driving force on the field, helping take South Carolina from a team that was 5-13 in 18 games before him, to 13-7 in the last season and a half since he took over, including a nine-win campaign where South Carolina finished win a winning record in SEC play (5-3) for the first time since 2012. The Gamecocks even topped Michigan in the Outback Bowl after a masterful comeback performance by the offense.

So what, what’s next?

This season, after South Carolina’s loss to Kentucky, their fifth straight season falling to the Wildcats, Bentley was banged up with a knee injury and the Gamecocks turned to fifth year senior, backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia. In his first collegiate start, his first chance to play meaningful snaps for South Carolina, Scarnecchia shined.

On a nasty day in Columbia, Scarnecchia led Carolina to a 37-35 comeback win over Missouri, capped off by a Parker White game winning field goal with two seconds left.

So what, what’s next?

The next week against Texas A&M, Bentley was healthy enough to play and Scarnecchia was back to his role as a backup and Carolina fell to the Aggies 26-23.

In his post-game press conference, Muschamp made things pretty clear about the quarterback position, saying Bentley put this team in position to win, but the rest of the Gamecocks have to play better.

The growing unknown in the quarterback dilemma for Carolina is freshman Dakereon Joyner. The 2017 South Carolina Mr. Football winner has yet to take the field in a game for the Gamecocks this season, despite the new four game redshirt rule.

Joyner, a four-star dual threat quarterback, made his commitment to South Carolina based on the commitment he would come to campus as a quarterback, not switch to another position.

That being said, one of the top prospects in Carolina’s class of 2019 is another four-star quarterback Ryan Hilinski. He is set to early enroll in January and compete for the starting job next fall.

The easiest solution for the Gamecocks plays out like this: Jake Bentley plays well, showing he gives the Gamecocks the best chance to win over the rest of the season. He returns in 2019 for his final season, clearly the starter and leader of this team, albeit in a crowded, younger quarterback room.

This year, Michael Scarnecchia gracefully returns to his backup role and continues to be the consummate teammate he’s been. Dakereon Joyner sees the field in some form or fashion in four games, preserving his redshirt season and showing the coaching staff what he’s capable of doing in game situations.

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