When Jake Bentley jogs out for the opening series Saturday at Neyland Stadium, it will mark his unofficial one-year anniversary as the Gamecocks' starting quarterback.
Carolina is playing its seventh game of 2017. Number seven in 2016 was against UMASS and that's when the true freshman was named the starting quarterback. USC was 2-4 and entering its bye week looking for answers on offense. The answer would be a freshman who gave up his senior year of high school to enroll early. The son of USC running backs coach Bobby Bentley, Jake was not your typical true freshman - but a true freshman nonetheless. But he had a solid debut as he connected on 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he had no interceptions as USC defeated UMASS 34-28.
The progress from that day to this week is easily tracked by Bentley.
"Everything from protection schemes to defensive coverages, just going out there with more knowledge," Bentley said when asked what areas he has noticed improvement.
"I feel last year was just trying to know our plays and what we were doing on offense. This year, just feeling more confident in knowing what the defense is showing us, who's not blocked, if someone comes, that will be (a) hot (read). Just little things like that."
Head coach Will Muschamp sees the mental and physical development in Bentley.
"Obviously it is physically, the maturation is easy to see," he said.
"But, just overall command of the offense, leader of our team. You know, understanding the confidence and belief that our players have in him and the job that he is going to do"
His official anniversary of his first start is October 22nd. but now with 12 regular season games and a bowl game under his belt, Jake is now entering his second full season as a starting quarterback.