COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) New South Carolina quarterbacks coach Dan Werner is clear about how he wants his signal callers to play this season – fast.
”If you see that ref having to sprint to get back to get set up, that means we’re going fast,” Werner said Friday, speaking with reporters for the first time since his hiring in January.
Werner was brought on by South Carolina coach Will Muschamp to help ignite an offense that’s been near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference the past two seasons. The Gamecocks were 12th in SEC points, rushing and yards per game last fall despite finishing 9-4 for their best record in four years.
Muschamp understood, Werner said, the team’s offense had to take a step forward by increasing tempo.
So far, so good, according to two-year starter Jake Bentley.
”It’s been a big difference for us,” Bentley said. ”We can see it on our defense. Every day, it seems they’re way out of position and we get a touchdown just because we’re going so fast.”
Bentley was middle of the pack in the SEC last season, sixth in passing yards at 214 per game. He completed 62 percent of his throws with 18 touchdowns in 2017. Bentley also threw 12 interceptions, the second most behind Missouri quarterback Drew Lock’s 13 among the league’s top 10 in passing yards.
Werner’s goal is to increase Bentley’s productivity while limited his mistakes. The long-time coach has the credentials to make that happen.
Werner worked at Miami in the 1990s and 2000s and was quarterbacks coach for the 2001 national champions, tutoring quarterbacks like Heisman Trophy winner Geno Torretta along with Ken Dorsey and Steve Walsh. He spent two stints at Ole Miss, the last a five-year stretch as co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach where he worked with Bo Wallace, Chad Kelly and Shea Patterson.
A year ago, Werner was an offensive analyst for national champion Alabama.
He knew Muschamp had worked for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before and liked what he saw out of the Gamecocks the past two years. Werner was not sure, however, he wanted to work under someone else after Muschamp promoted Bryan McClendon as offensive coordinator to take over for fired Kurt Roper.
Once Werner met McClendon, the connection was evident and the belief in a fast-paced system bonded them.
Werner has had a willing cast of quarterbacks to work with so far.
He said Bentley and South Carolina’s reserves in Michael Scarnecchia, Jay Urich and freshman Dakereon Joyner are all eager to pick up the pace for next season. Werner is a spread offense, run-pass option believer which puts a premium on a quarterback make the correct decisions pre- and post-snap to gain yards.
Bentley said Werner has a laid-back, teaching style that makes it easy to follow – and improve.
”It takes you a little while because you’ve got to get the whole process of it,” Bentley said. ”You really don’t get to see as much, but then again you don’t get to over-think anything.”
Werner said the quarterback’s ability to make the right call in the heat of the moment will be the difference on how quickly South Carolina’s offense will go. He’s seen nothing but positives so far from Bentley this spring.
The two have worked on Bentley’s footwork, refining his technique for the fall.
”This summer when he’s out on his own is when he’s really got to work to get the fundamentals down,” he said.
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