Barrett Sallee writes one of those “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin'” pieces about South Carolina’s chances this season. This is a pretty dynamic flag to plant:
Samuel’s return to the Gamecocks offense would be comparable to Julio Jones returning to Alabama or A.J. Green coming back to Georgia. Yes, he’s that big.
Will Samuel’s return have a major impact on Bentley’s performance? Count Sallee as being in the hell, yeah camp on that.
Drew Lock, Jarrett Stidham and the Alabama quarterback situation have dominated headlines at the most important position on the football field, but South Carolina’s Jake Bentley is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the conference. He threw 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the first two months of last season, before injuries all over the offense limited his options and teams loaded up to stop star receiver Bryan Edwards. It was during that time that Samuel’s absence was felt most.
Bentley has the ability to stretch the field deep and will have the new offense built around what he’s most comfortable with now that McClendon is running the show.
From what I saw of South Carolina’s spring game, I do think the new offense will benefit his play. But let’s not go too overboard here. Take a look at Bentley’s stats from last season. His passer rating was remarkably consistent, even if not at a particularly high level. He was under 100 only once, but never exceeded 150 all season, with and without Samuel.
Bentley was second in the conference in pass attempts, but finished seventh in passer rating, in large part because of a relatively low yards per attempt figure and a relatively high number of interceptions. It’s reasonable to think Samuel’s return would boost the ypa number, but Bentley’s turnovers are something he’ll have to fix himself.
In the end, I’m still a little skeptical, because, after all, it’s a new offensive scheme with a rookie offensive coordinator that’ll provide the framework for Bentley’s game this season. And while I have no doubt Samuel’s return is a big plus, let’s not forget that the ‘Cocks have to replace Hurst’s production at the tight end spot. Most relevantly, those are a lot of moving parts to have to fit together by the season’s second week.