By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
South Carolina has had just three practices in fall camp so far, but the new, up-tempo offense is flying, quarterback Jake Bentley said Monday.
The Gamecocks have installed a new, fast-paced attack under new offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, and Bentley says it's already starting to click.
"It gets better each and every day," Bentley said after practice Monday. "The more comfortable we get with it, the faster we go. We were flying around today and every day the defense comes in talking about how difficult it is to keep up with because you can't sub in and out when we are going that fast.
"The offensive line is doing a great job. They set the tempo, we are only going to go as fast as they can line up and get ready to go. They are doing a great job for us and we are going pretty fast."
Running back Rico Dowdle said the Gamecock offense is trying to run a play every seven seconds.
"It's a lot faster," he said. "That's what we are really focusing on, running a play every seven seconds."
The primary weapon in the new offense, of course, is wide receiver and all-purpose star Deebo Samuel, who is returning from a broken ankle. Bentley says Samuel, who missed all but three games last season, has shown no rust after being out for more than three months.
"Not at all. He has hit the ground running and just really looks explosive," Bentley said. "There is no timidness, no anything with him. He is really making some big plays and looking good."
A big element of the up-tempo offense is stretching the field, which means more deep balls. That's something Bentley said the offense is emphasizing and working on.
"Coach [Dan] Werner and Coach McClendon, if we have a one-on-one matchup, he wants us to throw it, and if we don't throw it, that's going to be minus for us," he said. "I love to have an aggressive mindset that they come in every day with."
With Samuel, veteran receiver Bryan Edwards and Shi and OrTre Smith, who both shined as freshmen last year, Bentley said deep shots down the field will be a big part of the offense.
"To attack a defense, you have to throw it deep and the more you do that, the more chances you have to score," he said. "That's the baseline of the thought process but we have the receivers to be able to attack a defense in so many ways, and that's one way."
The Gamecocks averaged just 24.2 points per game last year and struggled at times on offense, finishing 12th in the SEC in both scoring and total offense (337.1 yards per game). Fans are expecting a much more productive and exciting offense this season. Bentley says the group is poised to deliver.
"It is going to be a brand-new offense that they should be excited about," he said. "The talent that we have on offense is definitely something you look at. There are a lot of guys who can make a lot of big plays for us, a lot of guys who have played a lot of football and can make a lot of big plays."