It’s a fairly obvious statement, but the South Carolina Gamecocks’ QB battle is going to come down to three people. Perry Orth, Brandon McIlwain and Jake Bentley will likely have a lengthy race for the starting QB job leading up to September 1st. While Lorenzo Nunez will likely get some snaps at QB, it will more likely be in short-yardage and goal-line packages. With Orth, McIlwain and Bentley being the focus of the fall QB battle, let’s take a look at each player.
Former walk-on, turned scholarship QB, turned starting QB Perry Orth is as much of returning starter at QB that this team has. While Perry did throw for 1,929 yards and 12 TD’s last year, he struggled with consistency and poorly timed turnovers. A 54.8% completion rate and 9 interceptions is less than stellar, and a 1-7 record as the starting QB doesn’t provide much encouragement either. However, despite missing most of spring practice with an injury, Kurt Roper has been very positive about Perry’s work ethic and performance in practices and workouts. He may not do anything outstanding with his arms or his legs, but he does provide that “veteran presence” and experience that coaches love so much. It may be Perry’s job to lose, but only just barely.
A Gamecock commit dating back to the Spurrier administration, he held true to his commitment despite the coaching change. McIlwain graduated high school a semester early and joined the team for spring drills and was largely impressive throughout. A consensus four star recruit, McIlwain has a very strong, accurate arm while also providing the dynamic mobility that Kurt Roper wants at the QB position. When Perry Orth went down in spring practice with an injury, Brandon got most - if not all - of the first string reps. He enters fall camp “tied” with Perry Orth as the first string QB, so I would expect him to compete the most with Perry down the stretch for the starting job.
The son of South Carolina Gamecocks’ RB coach and SC high school coaching legend Bobby Bentley, Jake enters fall camp as the highest rated QB to ever be recruited to South Carolina. Standing at 6’4’’ Jake possesses elite size and arm strength at the QB position. Despite all of this, I think Jake is the biggest wildcard of this group of three. Bentley graduated high school a full year early so he could sign and play at USC as soon as possible. Despite his physical tools, Bentley has the most catching up to do in terms of learning the play book and adapting to the pace of the college game. It will be interesting to see how he develops during fall camp as the trajectory of his true freshman campaign is set.
Final Thoughts: In an ideal world, McIlwain will continue to progress nicely and will push Orth to the limit in the battle for the QB1 spot. It would be nice to redshirt Jake Bentley and save him a year of eligibility. I do think that McIlwain will eventually take over as the starting QB before the season is over, but it is more likely that Perry will open the season as the starter with Brandon splitting time.