COLUMBIA -- Dan Werner and Jake Bentley are on the same page with a lot of South Carolina’s offense, but one thing really sticks out to the third-year quarterback.
If Bentley sees a chance to pick up big chunks of yards through the air, Werner wants him to take it.
“If we have a one-on-one matchup, he wants us to throw it,” Bentley said. “If we don’t throw it, that’s going to be a minus for us. That’s the mindset I love to have.”
The Gamecocks have emphasized big, explosive plays all three years under Will Muschamp, which he defines as pass plays of 20 yards or more and run plays that go for at least 10 yards.
Werner said those types of explosive plays win games because they make scoring a little easier with the offense not having to piece together long, laborious drives where it picks up three yards a play.
Last season, the Gamecocks had 38 explosive pass plays, averaging out to roughly 2.9 per game. That’s good, but Bentley and the offense obviously want more in South Carolina’s new up-tempo scheme.
It started this summer with Werner and offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon giving offensive players a list of four routes to work on in player-run practices, and three of those were downfield routes.
Now, through the first part of camp, the emphasis on those deep passes hasn’t diminished.
“It’s very important. We want to stretch the defense and make sure they understand they have to cover the whole field. That’s going to be a huge part of our offense,” Werner said. “With the guys we have, I tell Jake, ‘If you just get it out there, they’re probably going to make a play for you.’ I think he’s bought into that.”
Werner came in as the new quarterbacks coach, replacing Kurt Roper in January.
Since then, he’s worked with McClendon on installing his run-pass option scheme that gives quarterbacks the option to hand the ball off or pull back and sling it to a receiver downfield.
In the RPO system, quarterbacks are taught to exploit mismatches and get the ball out to guys who can make plays, which could mean throwing the ball deep if the defense is in man-to-man coverage down the sideline.
It's something the skill-position players like, too, with the quarterback being freer to get them the ball in space.
“The way we take more risks and throwing deep balls. We were more cautious throwing more deep balls,” quarterback Michael Scarnecchia said of last year’s offense. “If we see the look we want or the matchup we want, hey take it, especially if it’s first or second down.”
Last season, the Gamecocks averaged 24.2 points per game, which ranked 12th in the SEC behind Florida and Tennessee.
Now, under McClendon, the Gamecocks want to be much more explosive and aggressive taking shots downfield with Bentley and a stable of experienced and versatile receivers with the hope that the team’s point totals skyrocket as well.
“I want to be aggressive. I feel like in order to score points, you have to try to score points,” McClendon said. “I think that’s going to be my mindset as far as going out there and calling it. Sometimes I have to get reeled back and I’m OK with that. I want to make sure we’re going out there and we want to be aggressive in everything we do.”