Jake Bentley showed plenty of potential as an SEC quarterback while starting the last seven games in 2016. It’s the backup plan that has South Carolina football fans concerned. Bentley is the only returning quarterback who saw game action last year.
Redshirt junior Michael Scarnecchia emerged from the April 1 spring game as the clear No. 2, but he missed the 2016 season with a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder.
“I have a lot of confidence in Michael,” Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said Monday during an SEC conference call with reporters. “He’s got arm talent. He can make all the throws.”
Scarnecchia, a 6-4, 199-pound native of Fleming Island, Fla., has attempted one college pass: a 9-yard completion during South Carolina’s 2015 loss at LSU.
“The game has got to continue to slow down for him,” Muschamp said. “I know he’s going to work tirelessly as far as his efforts off the field to be able to help our football team. He needs to be ready to go because you never know when your number is going to be called.”
South Carolina added quarterback Jay Urich from Piedmont’s Wren High School in its 2017 signing class.
“Every freshman will have the opportunity to compete at their position,” Muschamp said when asked Monday about Urich. “If they’re good enough, they’ll play. If they can help our football team win, they’re going to play. If they’re the best at their position, they’ll start. Our track record speaks for itself as far as playing freshmen.”
The quarterback ranks were thinned with the departure of senior Perry Orth and Brandon McIllwain’s decision to transfer after his freshman season. Orth opened the 2016 season as the starter. McIlwain played in eight games last year with three starts (600 yards passing, two touchdown passes, one interception with 127 yards rushing).
Bentley threw for 1,420 yards passing with nine TD passes and four interceptions. He went 4-3 as a starter as the Gamecocks finished 6-7.
Scarnecchia in the spring game was 19 of 36 with one touchdown pass and one interception.
Redshirt freshman walk-on Bailey Hart and redshirt junior walk-on Danny Gordon also got snaps in the spring game. Hart threw a perfectly placed 42-yard touchdown strike to early enrollee OrTre Smith, his former Wando High School teammate.
“He’s got an accurate arm,” Muschamp said. “Regardless if you’re a scholarship player or a walk-on, in our program if you’re good enough, you’ll play.”
Gordon was 6-of-12 passing for 53 yards.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff