Jake Bentley has faced his share of criticism during his three years as South Carolina’s starting quarterback.
He faced it last season when he struggled early, missed a game with injury and watched backup Michael Scarnecchia lead the Gamecocks to a thrilling 37-35 win over Missouri. When Bentley struggled in the first half against Texas A&M the following week, he got booed.
But the senior quarterback has learned how to block out much of the criticism. He has a simple strategy.
“You hold down Twitter on your phone and when that little X comes up, you hit it,” he said.
Like many college players, Bentley tries to stay off social media as much as possible during the season. He did last season and plans to again this year. Even that sometimes doesn't work.
“Even when you delete Twitter, you have people on campus saying [stuff] so it’s not like you can get fully away from it,” he said. “It’s just staying humble, I think. It’s always good to have somebody who will humble you and kinda put you back in your place, an older guy on the team.”
Though he has played well for much of his three seasons and is 19-13 as a starter (10-7 in the SEC), he has experienced the ugly side of social media.
“It’s so easy for someone to tweet out something negative and be mean," he said at SEC Media Days. "It’s sad to see it and it’s sad to see people tear people down for no reason. That’s why I don’t look at it. There’s no reason to worry about that when there needs to be more positivity.”
Bentley, who is in line to break most of the school passing records, has been a solid quarterback in his three years under Will Muschamp. But he has also played through some ups and downs, from starting as a true freshman and leading South Carolina to a 9-4 season in 2017 to a disappointing 7-6 season that ended with a 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl last year. He’s learned to ignore social media through the good times and bad.
“I think the hardest thing is not looking at it completely, but not looking at it when you are winning either,” he said. “When you start looking at it when you are winning, you get to think differently about yourself, and then you go back to it after a loss and it pisses you off. Then you start to believe stuff that these people who know nothing about quarterbacks are saying about you.
“But for me, I just pretty much delete Twitter. I have it deleted right now; I never got back on it after the season. … It’s just not important. The only things that are important are our teammates and our coaches and winning football games.”
Bentley rallied last season and had a big second half. He wound up throwing for 3,171 yards and 27 touchdowns, capped by a school-record 510 yards and five touchdown passes against Clemson. He enters his final season as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC and in position to break many school passing records.
His focus is squarely on his team and what lies ahead.
“The most important thing is just focus on what is important, and that’s your teammates and your coaches,” he said.