HOOVER, Ala. — Not many 19-year-olds are the leaders of a college program but South Carolina sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley isn’t an ordinary 19-year-old.
Bentley has played in just seven college games, but already has earned the respect of his teammates and coach Will Muschamp. Gamecocks junior tight end Hayden Hurst, who turns 24 next month, is one of Bentley’s biggest fans.
“It’s easy to get behind a guy like that, when you see how hard he works every single day,” said Hurst, who spent three seasons in the minors in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. “He’s in there first, watching film and lifting (weights) with me.”
The best compliments are from your teammates, which is why Bentley tries to set a good example.
“It means a lot,” Bentley said. “It’s great to see that people see how hard you work. But that guy over there (Hayden Hurst), he is one of the hardest workers on the team. I really try to match my work ethic to him and to the other guys on the team who really work hard.”
South Carolina junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel said Bentley is someone you want to play hard for during the season.
“You can tell that Jake has always been a leader,” Samuel said. “He’s always been the guy that people look up to when they’re asking for help because he always knows what’s going on.”
Bentley arrived at South Carolina in the summer of 2016 after deciding to graduate a year early from high school. The plan was for him to redshirt, but he ended up starting seven games; the Gamecocks were 4-3 in those starts. Bentley threw for 1,420 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions; he also completed 65.8 percent of his passes.
Muschamp said he had no problem deciding to go with Bentley at quarterback even though Bentley didn’t play in the first six games of the season.
“I saw that he’s obviously mature beyond his years,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes at 19 years old, he’s a little bit more mature than maybe some other 19-year-olds, which is what I saw.
“I saw a guy that had a tremendous work ethic and continued to improve. It was what he did on the field at practice. Practice matters. From what he did at practice, I thought, ‘We need to give this guy a shot and an opportunity.’ ”
RELATED: More South Carolina news from GN
Bentley admits he was growing impatient as a redshirt.
“It felt like I was on campus for a lot longer,” Bentley said. “Every week I felt like I wanted to play. So it was tough every week to sit on the sidelines, watch us have struggles and that wasn’t just on the quarterback position.
“But after that meeting, I was just ready to go. … I just try to do my best and rely on the guys around me to do their best too.”
Bentley’s first chance to impress this season comes Sept. 2 against NC State in Charlotte.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.