Shuler Bentley Looks to Write His Own Legacy as Quarterback
Old Dominion University has one of the newer football programs in the country. Since its rebirth in 2008 the program has been headlined by star quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who has since graduated and made an NFL roster. But before he left he served as a mentor to a freshman from Duncan South Carolina. That freshman is Shuler Bentley. Bentley, who was redshirted last fall, wasted little time in beginning his legacy here at ODU since being named the starter.
Coach Bobby Wilder confidently named Bentley starting quarterback back in May after the addition of two other walk-on quarterbacks.
“Shuler’s our starter, He was clearly the best quarterback in the spring. He was consistent, he was accurate. He completed 65 percent of all of his passes,” Wilder said.
Bentley lived up to those words in his first career start against Eastern Michigan. He racked up 184 yards a touchdown and posted a quarterback rating of 114.4.
“It was awesome. First start, first touchdown pass, and most importantly first win. That was a must win if we have any aspirations of going to a bowl game,” Bentley said.
At just 19 years of age Bentley showed a lot of poise managing the game and killing a lot of clock in the game’s final drives. His running back and roommate Ray Lawry ran for an incredible 223 yards and four touchdowns. Fellow freshman Oshane Ximines forced the game winning turnover to secure the victory.
“I love these guys; that was a great team win. The plane ride back to Norfolk was a lot of fun,” Bentley said.
While it is just one game into the season and with some pretty big shoes to fill one has to wonder how he is handling this new found pressure.
“Being able to lead the team is the best part of this whole experience. Now all eyes are on me, there is no more hiding behind Taylor. There is certainly a different kind of pressure involved. You get coached differently but it only makes me better,” he said.
With the redshirt freshman at the helm, and leading a very young group of guys, growing pains are to be expected. Bentley threw an early interception in the first half of his debut, and Coach Wilder noted that this team is “going to take about a month to grow into each other.”
“You are held to a much higher standard. There were some throws I could get away with as a backup that definitely don’t fly anymore. It’s very different but I’ve got to continue to get better,” Bentley said.
In week one’s post game, Coach Wilder reiterated the faith this team has in Bentley. While he was redshirt he developed many close relationships with his teammates making things off the field a little easier for the quarterback.
Aside from his teammates Bentley credits his coaches for confidence and all that he has learned in the past few months. No relationship seems as vital as the one he has formed with quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Ron Whitcomb.
Whitcomb also got the nod as a redshirt freshman when he was playing quarterback at Maine University.
“He knows a lot about what I am going through right now. He became a four year starter, and in turn has really helped all of these quarterbacks here progress year after year,” Bentley said
Bentley’s older brother also played quarterback at Rutgers giving him a lot of people to help him through this experience.
Perhaps no one proved as helpful to Bentley as former ODU quarterback Taylor Heniecke. In his last six months on campus the two lived together and Heniecke served as a mentor to the young quarterback.
“Being able to stay with him helped. I learned so much in that time period. I was lucky to have such a good mentor. It’s something I look forward to doing at the end of my time here,” Bentley said.
The two still keep in touch, exchanging texts before games.
Bentley was quick to praise those who helped him in his earlier playing days as well. He cites his father for his biggest influence in football.
“My father and I are very close, I don’t think I go more than two days without talking to him. He is always there to help me in life and in football. He has been there every step of the way,” he said.
Bentley is one of the most successful high school players in South Carolina history. The Duncan SC native was named Gatorade player of the year twice. He racked up over 13,000 yards and an astounding 177 touchdowns.
“There are a lot of guys to come out of the state of South Carolina like Lattimore, Clowney, and Stephen Davis. To be in the conversation with guys like that is pretty special,” Bentley said.
Bentley drew recruiting interest as a sophomore. He received offers from ECU, Tulane, and Cincinatti before choosing Old Dominion.
“It was my best opportunity to start as a freshman, being able to redshirt behind a proven quarterback. I felt very welcome and at home here,” Bentley said.
Bentley now has the chance to prove himself and will serve as a leader for a very young team.
“It really helps when the core of this team is young. We only have 10 seniors on this team so it’s not like I am the only young guy out there. We definitely have some great chemistry,” he said.
Bentley won his second game as a starter in a 24-10 win against the Norfolk State Spartans. He went 12-22 with 122 yards. He has high expectations for this team going forward.
“We need to just keep winning. We want to win the East, and conference play is going to be very important. Ultimately we need to go to a bowl game now that we are eligible,” Bentley said.
Perhaps Bentley’s biggest test of the season comes next week against the NC State Wolfpack. The Wolfpack is the biggest program to come to Foreman field. They are currently undefeated and a former powerhouse in the Atlantic Coast Conference.