Bobby Bentley on Saturday became the first member of the South Carolina football program to publicly confirm, by name, that graduate senior Tavien Feaster, a transfer from Clemson, will play running back for the Gamecocks this season and practiced with the team Saturday morning.
That was the newsworthy nugget to come from the Gamecock tight ends coach’s 12-plus-minute chat with reporters.
But Bentley otherwise didn’t pay much attention to the team’s newest player.
Bentley, in his first season coaching the team’s tight ends after spending three coaching running backs, has his attention set on the players who meet in room 229 in the team’s operations center — the room with images of Hayden Hurst, Jerell Adams and Jermale Kelly on the walls.
“It’s been a good thing for me. It’s kind of rejuvenated me,” Bentley said of his position change. “I’ve always been a quarterback guy my whole career, and then coaching running backs was really good for me. … But now with the tight ends, it’s a little bit of that quarterback mentality. In the meeting room especially.
“I think you may, at tight end, as a coach, be involved even more. So it’s exciting for me.”
Bentley coached Ben Hall — one of the nation’s top tight end recruits who played at Clemson and saw some time in the NFL — when the former coached Byrnes High School.
“I would hope that my experience in the passing game would help [with the new position],” Bentley said. “… Whether you’re a vertical threat or a horizontal threat. I know we can do that at the tight end position.”
Here are six takeaways from what Bentley told reporters:
1) “Good tight end plays”
Bentley starts every tight end meeting the same way.
“Before meetings we actually show clips of what we call ‘good tight end plays.’ Because our tight end position, we’re a fullback, we’re an h-back, we’re an inline tight end and we’re a receiver. So when you look at that skillset, that’s hard to find,” he said.
“So we find good clips on Hayden [Hurst], good clips of Jared [Cook], good clips of other tight ends across the NFL and show, ‘Hey, this is the set and the movement skill you want on this play.’ We bring up Hayden a lot.”
2) Kiel Pollard has “a little juice to him”
Senior tight end is looking to expand on the 15 catches for 181 yards and two touchdowns he had last season, and Bentley is confident he will do so.
“He’s definitely a threat outside. And as he’s gotten better with his footwork, he’s become a better blocker,” Bentley said. “But the thing about Kiel, he’s a competitor. He’s a guy on your team just to go play basketball or play anything, volleyball, whatever it is we’re doing. He’s that guy that’s competitive. He’s got a little juice to him.
“It’s special, because when we first got the job, there was just a few of us on the staff, and coach Muschamp and I went down to see him down in south Georgia. So I know his family. I know his high school coaches. I know where he comes from. It’s very exciting to see his development. I look forward to his future and his senior year. I hope it’s a great one.”
3) Kyle Markway is a “Marcus Lattimore type”
Senior tight end Kyle Markway had three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown last season. Two of those catches, though, were critical. Markway had a 27-yard catch-and-run to set up a game-winning field goal in the final minute against Missouri and .caught his first-career touchdown pass, a 19-yarder, at Florida.
“He’s a great person. In the past I’ve mentioned that he’s kind of that Marcus Lattimore type. He makes everybody around him better,” Bentley said. “You know, he’s a no excuse guy and when he makes a mistake he has no traffic report. He doesn’t have any type of excuse on what he did wrong. He just says, ‘Coach, I’ll do better.’ He had a great day today.”
5) Nick Muse can be ‘special’ … if he plays
When asked if 6-3, 232-pound tight end Nick Muse has a chance to see significant playing time if he’s granted eligibility to play, Bentley responded with one word: “Yes.”
Muse, a transfer from William & Mary, joined SC at the start of fall camp. If his waiver request is granted, Muse can play immediately for the Gamecocks.
As a sophomore in 2018, the Belmont, N.C. native was an All-CAA third-team selection. He ranked seventh in the CAA in receiving yards per game (64.7), ranked second on his team in catches (30), receiving yards (453) and touchdowns catches (1).
“He is a guy who can really be a dominant inline player with his size and athleticism,” Bentley said. “… He’s got size and length. He’s got length, therefore you can be an inline guy that can block that 280-pound, 6-5 defensive end. Yet he can still flex out and do some things on the perimeter that you’d like to do too. Because we don’t substitute our personnel and we keep our tight end in the game.”
“… The meeting room is very important to him. That’s where he’s got to be most competitive. You know, to be honest with you, he’s probably one of the alpha males in the room. He stands out. He’s a leader. He is really going to be special.
“When you think about Nick and the way he’s been brought up, a tremendous family and a competitive spirit.”
6) Freshmen standouts
Six-foot-three, 285-pound freshman Traevon Kenion and 6-2, 240-pound freshman KeShawn Toney have impressed Bentley.
“Trey missing the first part of spring kind of put spring behind him, because we’ve only got a few days. We’re focusing on trying to get him ready now,” Bentley said. “He’s an athlete. He’s a big, strong athlete that can help us. He’s got a good broad jump. He has the athleticism in his body. We’ve just got to get him ready to play.
“KeShawn is the same way. Very intelligent guy. Picks it up. Hard worker. Just got to continue to get him ready to play.”