COLUMBIA — A quarterback’s best friends can get to him like no blitzing linebacker.
“Jake’s sensitive. You can get under his skin,” South Carolina receiver Bailey Hart said of Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley. “But get one good jab on him and he’s coming back with a haymaker.”
When Parker White and Chandler Farrell join in the teasing, Bentley feels the pocket pressure. The four best friends — a garnet quartet of South Carolina veterans that has bonded over four years on campus — know what’s coming.
“Jake unloads,” Hart said with a grin. “That’s his competitive nature.”
They don’t have a nickname but this fab four keeps each other focused within their team and individual football journeys. No doubt, the Bentley support group with its Lowcountry flavor and spicy retorts has been a big plus for South Carolina.
Farrell is a redshirt junior tight end and center who twice was an All-State selection at Summerville High School. A former walk-on, he got into five games in 2018.
Hart, also a redshirt junior (Wando High School), walked on as a quarterback. He fared well in spring workouts before a move to wide receiver. Hart caught a pass against Coastal Carolina last season and has seen action on special teams.
White, Hart’s Wando teammate, has been the Gamecocks’ primary kicker for two seasons. That’s quite a leap for a guy who wasn’t on the team as a South Carolina freshman.
Bentley has a chance to break a lot of Gamecock quarterback records as he enters his fourth season as an SEC starter when South Carolina plays North Carolina on Aug. 31 in Charlotte.
Much of that time has been spent with his three amigos.
“Those guys mean the world to me,” Bentley said. “Just to keep me grounded, or to pick me up when I need it. If we win a game they’ll kind of crack a joke to get me right back to earth.”
Though this Gamecock team doesn’t seem infected with clashing cliques, there are many other colorful friend groups or pairs. That includes the dynamic cornerback duo of Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu — they once missed a mandatory bed-check only to be found studying game film at the team facility.
There are also other close associates that come and go from the Bentley-Hart-White-Farrell circle, including wide receiver Chavis Dawkins, quarterback-turned-wide receiver Jay Urich and former quarterback Danny Gordon.
But the staple foursome is almost inseparable.
“They say ‘You are who you hang around with,’ and that’s true,” Hart said. “Just being around like-minded guys helps you to push yourself. We all want to help the team in our own way. And we definitely keep each other accountable.”
Bentley, Farrell and Hart lived together as freshmen.
White moved in when they were all sophomores, and Dawkins, too.
Last year, as juniors, Bentley lived with Hart and White in a house.
This year it’s Hart and White together with Bentley and Farrell in another place nearby.
A steady barrage of humor follows along.
“Always,” Hart said. “It’s not like anyone feels entitled.”
The parents of the four players have become friends, too. DeeAnn and Kenny Farrell (he is the principal at Summerville High School and lettered for the Gamecocks as an offensive lineman from 1990-1992) tailgate with Cynthia and Bill Hart.
The student-athletes would rather eat at their go-to Columbia restaurants: Doc’s Barbecue for lunch, Cantina 76 for Mexican food. Or their favorite new spot: Peebles Wing Shack on Rosewood Drive.
Best cook in the group?
Farrell, for sure.
He recently obtained a Blackstone grill.
“I’m sure Jake will tell you all about it,” Farrell said. “I mean, I thought it was good.”
Farrell is also the DH (designated handyman).
“If the car breaks down, call Chandler,” White said. “If something is leaking, call Chandler. He’s got a nice set of tools, too, so he can really do it all.”
Best video game player?
“We played a lot of ‘Fortnite’ (a multi-player combat game) as sophomores,” Hart said. “It was probably a little unhealthy at times. We don’t play as much now. Except for Parker.”
And yet …
“Parker White will tell you he’s a great ‘Fortnite’ player,” Farrell said. “Honestly, he’s one of the worst players I have ever seen.”
“First thing I’m thinking of is the time Chandler and I got some Axe deodorant spray and snuck into a room where four girls on the track team live,” White said. “We sprayed like three cans of Axe all over their clothes, all over the room. They had to wash all of their clothes and all of their sheets. You could smell the Axe from the elevator 50 yards away. Yeah, that was a good one.”
Sure, complete wackiness.
But the craziest thing that has happened to Bentley, Farrell, Hart and White while together at South Carolina?
“Well,” Farrell said. “I have to hold that answer back.”
Hart, who was part of a state championship track team at Wando and was a skilled batter, catcher and outfielder before high school.
“He’s just so versatile,” Farrell said.
Hart and White have also started a Bible study group that meets at least once a week.
White thinks the close friendships allow him to relax on the field and, ultimately, perform better.
Farrell, who along with Hart already has a bachelor’s degree, almost got choked up talking about his buddies.
“There are no words, really,” Farrell said. “Those guys are my best friends. They will be friends for the rest of my life. Coming here has allowed me to meet them and there’s no other place in the world where I could have met a group of guys like this.”
The starting quarterback is just as grateful.
“They’re really great guys,” Bentley said, “and I’m just really blessed to have them around all these years.”
Even when they’re forcing him to throw haymakers.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff