South Carolina at Ole Miss, 2018

Jake Bentley

Jake Bentley is expected to have a big season for South Carolina this year, with many believing he will develop into one of the SEC’s best quarterbacks and an NFL prospect.

There is no better authority on the subject than NFL legend Archie Manning.

Manning, who played quarterback for 13 seasons in the NFL, is the father for NFL greats Peyton and Eli Manning. He also runs the prestigious Manning Passing Academy with his sons. Through the camp, the Mannings have worked with Bentley the past three summers.

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No one has been more impressed with Bentley than Archie, who knows a thing or two about raising elite quarterbacks.

“Jake is a great kid,” Manning said in an interview Thursday. “I know he’s a coach’s son. I almost feel like I can pick out a coach’s son. … Everybody likes Jake. He does a great job with the kids. He’s been there three years and he’s just a great kid. If all our counselors through the years had Jake’s attitude, it would be great.”

Bentley worked at the camp for the third straight summer, serving as a camp counselor and working out with Peyton and Eli and other top college quarterbacks from around the country. He turned heads this year by winning the Quarterback Challenge against other top college QBs.

The competition requires quarterbacks to throw at a moving golf cart. Each quarterback makes three throws — an over-the-middle pass from 15 yards and 25 yards, and a deep ball. Bentley made all three of his throws and then beat Appalachian State’s Zach Thomas in the finals.

“Jake looked good. He threw the ball well,” Manning said. “The one thing that makes it hard throwing to a golf cart going deep is that, unlike a receiver, it doesn’t adjust to the ball. So you have to be on target. Jake hit all three. I was standing there beside him and he really wanted to win. … He was really pumped about winning that and we were excited for him because we all like Jake.”

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Manning, who starred at Ole Miss and is in the College Football Hall of Fame, saw Bentley play in person last year when he threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-44 win over Ole Miss in Oxford. Manning watched the game with South Carolina legend and 1980 Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers.

“He had a good day that day,” Manning said. “That was a lot of fun.”

While at the camp this summer, Bentley roomed with Florida State quarterback Alex Hornibrook, a Wisconsin transfer, and developed close relationships with Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Notre Dame’s Ian Book and LSU’s Joe Burrow. He believes attending the academy has helped him improve his mechanics and footwork and is confident after the feedback he got this summer.

“They said I just looked cleaner fundamentally, a lot cleaner, a lot more confident, a lot stronger, better body, better body shape. It was all positive, it was all good,” he said. “There is obviously a lot of stuff to work on still, but it was fun getting down there and getting to see a lot of the guys.”

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said the camp has helped Bentley improve his mechanics and fundamentals.

“That’s something he has worked hard on in the offseason,” Muschamp said. “Archie and Cooper [Manning] both texted me about how well he was doing down there. They run a wonderful camp that is a great fundamental camp for young quarterbacks. It was good to hear from those guys and I’m glad he had the success he had.”

Manning, who keeps in touch with Bentley and texts him after games, believes the South Carolina QB is poised for a big senior season and will be one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC this season.

“I think he will do great,” he said. “I know they have a tough schedule, but there is something about being a senior. He’ll be a captain. A lot of kids who come out early and don’t experience that, I think they miss something. … I think there is really something special about being a senior, being a captain, being a quarterback and a leader and being a quarterback in a program for three years. I think there are a lot of special things there. I think he will have a really good year.”

He also believes Bentley is setting himself up for a long NFL career.

“I think so. Jake’s experience and playing in the Southeastern Conference, those things will be very beneficial for him,” he said.

Spurs & Feathers Executive Editor