The South Carolina football team was reeling from a devastating season-opening loss to North Carolina when it returned to practice Sunday.

And then the news got even worse.

Players and coaches learned Sunday night that starting quarterback Jake Bentley had suffered a Lisfranc foot injury that could require season-ending surgery. A Lisfranc injury occurs when one or more of the metatarsal bones in the foot is displaced from the tarsus.

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Head coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday that Bentley would be out at least six to eight weeks and the medical staff would know later this week whether or not the injury would require season-ending surgery. Freshman backup Ryan Hilinski will start the home opener Saturday against Charleston Southern.

“You hurt for Jake,” Muschamp said. “Senior year and he has given a lot to this program. An outstanding young man, exactly how you want someone to represent the University of South Carolina. I just hurt for him during this time.”

Bentley struggled in the 24-20 loss to North Carolina, completing just 16 of 30 passes for 142 yards and two fourth-quarter interceptions. Muschamp said he was injured when he was sacked on the final play of the game. Bentley was under pressure all day, suffering three sacks and several other hits.

“He was in the middle of the field and slipped and generally a Lisfranc comes from someone landing on you or the turf,” he said. “He slipped on the side and that’s when he was hurt.”

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Bentley had an MRI on Sunday and Muschamp and the coaching staff are waiting on a second opinion before they decide whether Bentley needs surgery.

Muschamp said it was too early to decide whether or not Bentley would redshirt this year and be eligible to return next season.

“We haven’t discussed that. It’s a tough time right now,” he said.

Bentley’s teammates were distraught over the injury.

“It’s devastating,” running back Rico Dowdle said. “We hate it for him.”

“It was a sad thing,” sixth-year senior center Donell Stanley said. “I called him and he told me the diagnosis and everything so we sat down and I told him I would be behind him 100 percent. I’ve been in his shoes so I know how it feels.”

“I’m sorry that happened to Jake. He’s definitely one of our leaders and definitely one of the guys everyone looks up to,” backup quarterback/receiver Dakereon Joyner said.

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Muschamp said Bentley took the injury hard but was already taking on a leadership role while he recovers.

“It’s hard. The guy puts everything into being the quarterback here and it’s very difficult. It’s hard,” he said. “He was at practice today and wants to be in the meetings and wants to be involved and help Ryan and Dakereon and be a leader. That’s who he is. That’s the type of person he is, that’s how he was raised. That’s why he will be successful in life.”

“It’s tough for him. He’s a guy that takes a lot of stuff but he takes it and rolls with it,” linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “Just hearing that, it definitely sucks but he’s out here still motivating everybody and being the guy that we need.”

"He’s good," backup quarterback Dakereon Joyner said. "I’m sure he’s discouraged, but he’s doing a good job of handling it.”

INJURY UPDATES: Muschamp said wide receivers OrTre Smith and Randrecous Davis should be able to return this week after meeting with the medical staff Tuesday. Defensive backs A.J. Turner and J.T. Ibe are also expected to be available Saturday after missing the season opener. … Defensive end Aaron Sterling had some swelling on his knee after Saturday’s game and did not practice Tuesday. Muschamp said he believes he will be available Saturday. … Defensive lineman Kier Thomas will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury.

Spurs & Feathers Executive Editor