The moment Jake Bentley was officially ruled out as starter for this weekend’s game against Charleston Southern, two things became clear:
The first is that Jake Bentley’s performance on Saturday is no longer relevant.
The change has been made, and therefore, the only things fans should be saying to and about him is, “thank you and well wishes on a speedy recovery”.
I’ll also add, If you’re the type of person that is celebrating the fact that a college student is hurt, I recommend that you reassess your life priorities, because something is way off.
The second thing is that whether or not he’s ready, true freshman Ryan Hilinski will get the start on Saturday.
Realistically, CSU is the most ideal game on the schedule to break in a new quarterback.
However, with the Alabama game looming in the not-so-distant future, Gamecock nation has its collective fingers crossed that the California kid gets ready in a hurry.
Personally, I expect him to do well. With lowered expectations on the year—as a result of the UNC debacle— I think that Hilinksi will overachieve in his first season at the helm.
Although it seems as if Jake Bentley has been at Carolina for a decade or longer, there’s been quite a few important QB shifts in recent memory.
Some of those have worked out well for a fan base that is desperate for some meaningful signs of success, and others have been disastrous.
As we prepare expectations for the Ryan Hilinski era, here’s a look at the recent quarterback changes that have led us to this point:
Garcia to Shaw
Halfway through the 2011 season, and after a rough game against the Auburn Tigers, signal caller Stephen Garcia lost his starting position to sophomore Connor Shaw.
Considering that Garcia, at the time, was one of the highest ranked QB recruits that Carolina ever picked up, and also considering that he held a near-mythical status for his 2010 victory over Alabama, this change was a bold move for Spurrier.
With some doubting the shift, the team rallied around their new leader, and in his first start Connor Shaw earned SEC Offensive Player of Week honors, by throwing for 4 TD’s and 311 yards, during a 54-3 rout of Kentucky.
He finished the season with only one loss to his credit, and then went on to be the winningest QB in program history (27-5).
The move to Shaw paid off in huge ways, but sometimes QB success does not turn in to team success…
Shaw to Thompson
The situation around this change is much different than the one above. Shaw was not benched due to inconsistent performances, but instead graduated and moved onward in his career.
Thompson, with a year of eligibility left, stepped into the spotlight as a seemingly natural fit.
The Boiling Springs native had shown flashes of greatness, especially in his passing accuracy and arm strength— most notably in a game that he won at Clemson, when Shaw was injured.
With high expectations, Thompson delivered, at least statistically.
In his only season as a starter he threw for 3,564 yards, eclipsing a single season record with that number, but unfortunately, also being the first QB since 2005, to throw 3 INT’s in a single game multiple times.
Those turnovers, coupled with the fact that the 2014 defensive unit was Carolina’s worst statistical defense ever, meant that despite his historical passing records, the team fell from 11-wins to seven wins.
It also marked the first victory Clemson had over the Gamecocks in the decade (and started their current 5-game winning streak).
In hindsight, no one could have predicted what was coming when Shaw stepped off the field for the final time.
But after Thompson left, the real QB carousel began.
From Thompson to Bentley
After Thompson’s departure, the QB security blanket that was built under Spurrier began to unravel, as did the rest of his team.
Connor Mitch, who came in as a 4-star pro-style recruit was believed to be the next great passer at Carolina.
Fans knew after the 2014 season that defense would be a huge issue, but with play makers still on the offensive side of the ball and a well thought of new QB coming in, fans assumed that 2015 would be a bounce back year.
As fate would have it, Mitch struggled early, and the team collapsed late.
By the time Steve Spurrier hung up his visor halfway through the season, Mitch was out indefinitely, and former walk-on, Perry Orth was in.
Even though Orth showed some potential here and there (most notably leading the gamecocks to within five points of then #1 Clemson), the Gamecocks finished the season with only 3-wins to their credit.
A sign that rough times were here to stay in Columbia.
The 2016 season began and in the opener against Vanderbilt, Orth started, and the offense continued to look clueless.
The Gamecocks somehow willed their way to victory, and Orth got the start again at Mississippi State.
After two scoreless quarters and up against a 14-0 deficit, the change was made to fan favorite, Brandon Mcllwain, who gave a solid effort in the eventual loss.
The next four games saw a shuffling around of rotations between Orth and Mcllwain, as Muschamp desperately sought to find something that would work.
In the seventh game of the 2016 season, against UMass, Muschamp pulled the trigger on true freshman, Jake Bentley, and never looked back.
Bentley helped salvage bowl eligibility that season, and then led the team to an Outback Bowl win the following season.
Since then, his performances were mixed.
At times, he has seemed to be right on the verge of taking that all-important next step.
But even so, with the reported injury, we say thank you.
This weekend is potentially the start of something truly amazing.
If Hilinksi is who we think he is, he has the ability, talent, and composure to be the next next great winner at the University of South Carolina.
I don’t know about you, but even with that UNC loss in the back of my mind, I don’t want to miss this kid’s first start.
Maybe, just maybe, we are on the verge of something great!
See you at Williams Brice!