Bryan McClendon talks Bentley improvement, Hilinski impression, Joyner's position

Bryan McClendon talks Bentley improvement, Hilinski impression, Joyner's position

By Josh Hyber | Photo by Allen Sharpe

Jake Bentley talked earlier this spring about the areas he needs to improve in to become a better quarterback, from turning the ball over less to converting opportunities in the red zone. 

He knows he can be better, and has to be better, this upcoming season.

Right now, according to South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, despite two highly-touted underclassmen on the depth chart, Bentley is still the best quarterback on the Gamecock roster and gives the team the best chance to win. 

That’s where things stand as of Wednesday, when Gamecock offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon met with reporters for about 30 minutes.

After that, spots two through six on the quarterback depth chart are up for grabs between redshirt-freshman Dakereon Joyner, freshman Ryan Hilinski, redshirt-sophomore Jay Urich, redshirt-sophomore Darius Douglas and redshirt-freshman Corbett Glick.

“I still think we have a lot to look at before we even consider a pecking order,” McClendon said. “Right now we’re trying to give those guys the same amount of reps, so we have a good body of work of understanding of who exactly did what with each group. 

“… We’ve got a lot more information to gather before we can get there.”

Here’s what the coach said specifically about some of the Gamecock quarterbacks: 

Jake Bentley

What does he need to do to get better?

“The only thing he can worry about is just being better than he was the day before. When you look at everybody, I can go through every player we have, myself included as a coach, and just say, ‘Hey man, these are a million things we’ve got to get better at.’ But if we approach the day the right way and keep getting better, I feel like he’s working toward that goal. The one thing we’ve got to do a good job at is protecting the football. … But that falls on a lot of other different people also.” 

Did you ever consider pulling Bentley for Michael Scarnecchia?  

“That’s a question that, I mean, I don’t know. I mean every game kind of goes up and down. But it’s not just me. It’s a staff decision. It starts with coach Muschamp. We kind of get his input, whether it be before the series or before the game or even during the series and kind of go from there. I’m not saying that that’s what stopped it or started it, but it’s a lot more than me. It’s a lot more than me than just saying, ‘Hey, this is what we need to do.’ There’s a lot more that goes into it also.

Did that conversation ever happen during a game? 

“Not that I remember, that we weren’t ready for. It was a lot more based on [Jake’s] injury. … [We never had that discussion] during a game. 

Dakereon Joyner

How has Dakereon looked during spring practice?

“He’s looking a lot better. He’s looking a lot better. Just a lot more comfortable with everything he’s doing. I mean, he’s having a pretty good spring.”

Would you consider changing his position if that’s what he wants?

“I don’t know. Right now we just want him to be the best quarterback he can be. If it got to that point, then maybe. I mean he has the tools to do different things. But right now we just want him to be the best quarterback he can be.”

Ryan Hilinski

How’s he looking?

“I’ll tell you what, he’s looking pretty good. You’ve got to take into consideration this is only his seventh college practice, but he’s grasping everything. He’s doing a good job of understanding what we’re trying to do every time he’s in there, and he does have a good command of it. He’s doing a pretty good job right now.”

Will he play?

“I can’t say that. I think there’s a long time and we have to figure that out. I mean, you’re talking about a guy who has been through seven practices. You know what I’m saying? It’s still tough to see exactly where he will be, even when it comes to game planning and grasping and going against changing looks. But he has done a really good job up until this point. I feel like once we get closer to game day, and even camp … I still think there’s a lot of time to decide that.” 

Has anything surprised you about him?

“The one thing you really don’t know when you get a quarterback is how brave he is, you know, when he’s standing in the pocket and he’s dealing with all the stuff … you just don’t know. You’ve got a good feeling, but you just don’t know for sure. And that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve been impressed with. He hasn’t flinched. He hasn’t flinched. He goes in there, they send things at him, and he’s making the right checks and doing the right things. That’s the thing I’ve been really, really impressed with him about.”

Can you compare Ryan and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence?

“I wouldn’t know. Trevor Lawrence is a really good player. You know, he’s a really good player. So I’m sure it didn’t take [Clemson] a long time to figure out. I’m sure we could have figured it out over here for them. But to compare them, I think, is unfair to [Ryan]. You’re talking about a guy that went in as freshman and won a national championship. Right now [Ryan] is on practice number seven. We’ve still got a lot of time to see.”