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Officially out for the year, South Carolina QB Jake Bentley could have tricky decision ahead

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South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley is going to have a decision to make.

Bentley injured his foot during his team’s Week 1 loss to North Carolina, but it wasn’t immediately clear how long he would be out. We got that clarity on Sunday when South Carolina coach Will Muschamp announced that Bentley, a fourth-year starter, needs surgery and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

It’s a tough blow for Bentley that presumably leaves the senior with three options for the 2020 season: take a medical redshirt and try to reclaim his starting job, leave South Carolina as a graduate transfer, or pursue the NFL draft.

Bentley became South Carolina’s starting quarterback midway through his true freshman season and hasn’t given up the job since. Over that 34-game span, Bentley has thrown for 7,527 yards, 55 touchdowns and 32 interceptions while completing 62.5 percent of his passes.

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 31:South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp high fives South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley (19) for a score as he walks off the field during the Belk College Kickoff game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the North Carolina Tar Heels on August 31, 2019 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte,NC. (Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley is out for the season after injuring his foot in Week 1. (Photo by Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

What should Jake Bentley do for the 2020 season?

Bentley’s injury opened the door for true freshman Ryan Hilinski to take over the quarterback duties moving forward for the Gamecocks. Hilinski, a top-50 recruit from California, performed well in his debut, completing 24-of-30 throws for 282 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also had a rushing touchdown in a dominant victory over Charleston Southern.

The Gamecocks host No. 2 Alabama next weekend in what will be a huge challenge for Hilinski. And if Hilinski lives up to his recruiting billing as the season progresses, it could open up a competition for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in 2020 should Bentley decide to return to Columbia for another season.

That would put the coaching staff in a tough spot. Bentley has been up-and-down throughout his career, and struggled mightily in Week 1 before hurting his foot on the game’s final play. If Hilinski plays well as a true freshman, the staff could decide the team’s future is brighter with him at the position moving forward instead of Bentley. In that hypothetical scenario, it could be in the best interests of both sides for Bentley to pursue a graduate transfer where he would be assured the starting position while also attempting to boost his own NFL draft stock.

That’s looking many weeks down the road and when Muschamp spoke with reporters Sunday, he said he has not discussed the future with Bentley. Getting through the surgery, which will happen in the coming days, is priority No. 1. From there, Bentley will have the next few months to mull his next move.

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