COLUMBIA – When Will Muschamp asked Bobby Bentley to join him at the University of South Carolina as the school’s running backs coach in December 2015, he didn’t know if his son, Jake Bentley, would one day become part of the program.
But, considering the closeness of the Bentley family, it was a possibility.
How quickly it happened, however, was a surprise.
Jake Bentley was then a high school junior; Muschamp never expected him to be the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks in October 2016.
“We were recruiting Jake for next year’s class,” Muschamp said. “I obviously was familiar with Jake because of my time at Auburn and Opelika High School and Brian Blackmon, the head football coach.
“Jake was in our camps during the summer at Auburn. He did a fantastic job, a guy that really impressed me.”
When the Bentleys decided to make the move from Alabama to Columbia, one of the questions needing to be answered by the family was Jake’s future.
Would he remain in Alabama, or join the family in Columbia and enroll at his third high school?
“When we got here, we needed to finish out this class, number one,” said Muschamp. “Then, starting on the next class after signing date – Jake unofficially visited Stanford, Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Auburn, maybe Tennessee. I don’t remember. But I know he did the other schools.”
In March, Muschamp got a call from Jake Bentley, saying he wanted to commit to USC, which appeared to get the 2018 recruiting class off to a rousing start.
That scenario changed a few weeks later. A close-knit family, Bobby and his wife Paulette were looking for a way to bring their son to Columbia.
Jake, however, wasn’t keen on starting over at a new high school. That led to him attempting to enroll early at USC.
“Maybe three weeks, a month (after Jake committed), Bobby came into my office and said, ‘Have you ever been a part of a situation where it is a possibility he could graduate early and come to school?’ ” said Muschamp.
“I said, no, but I actually had. I was not there at the time, but John David Booty had come to LSU …That was the only time I had heard of it.”
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Jake and his family decided to pursue graduating early. After a few details were worked out, that’s what happened.
“The high school in Alabama didn’t really feel it was good for their situation,” Muschamp said. “They continued to research it and found that a high school in Spartanburg was able to count him in the class.
“It was all cleared through the NCAA. It took about a month. I think it was completed about the end of May. He was going to be able to enroll.”
Since USC did not have a scholarship available, Jake walked on at USC in the summer. He was placed on scholarship in the fall.
“They are a very close-knit family and wanted to be together, and it just so happened it worked out that way,” Muschamp said. “They came to me, and I said I would support it if it could happen.
“Anytime you can add a good football player to your roster, that’s something you want to do. We were able to do it, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Willie T. Smith, The Greenville News