- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Shuler Bentley spent last season watching, and learning, from Taylor Heinicke at Old Dominion.

Now, with the prolific Heinicke trying to earn a roster spot with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Bentley is charged with replacing him.

The 6-foot-1, 202-pound quarterback from Duncan, South Carolina certainly seems to have the right tools.

The Monarchs have used a spread offense much like Bentley ran in high school, and he set a South Carolina record by throwing 71 touchdown passes as a senior.

“I knew a lot of the base concepts already before I stepped foot on campus because I’ve been running them all my life,” Bentley said.

Coach Bobby Wilder went into spring practice determined to wait until the summer to choose a quarterback, but decided before it was over that Bentley was going to be the guy and it made no sense to wait to anoint him. It worked out just the way Bentley had drawn it up in his mind.

“One of the big reasons I came here was I knew, through recruiting, that I had the opportunity to redshirt and then be the starter for four years, and that’s one of the things I worked for my whole redshirt year,” Bentley said.

Wilder hopes an experienced supporting cast and a slight adjustment in what Monarchs look to do will aid Bentley in his transition, too. His first college game comes in Saturday’s season-opener at Eastern Michigan.

“We have changed the dynamics of what we’re going to be doing on offense, and the offensive coaching staff has done a great job emphasizing to all the players around him that this is a different team,” Wilder said. “So, we will be much more run-oriented, which always helps develop a quarterback’s confidence.”

Those changes became more necessary when Melvin Vaughn was lost to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The 6-2, 253-pound junior with 49 career receptions had moved from wide receiver to tight end when Wilder decided to rely less on a four wide receiver set and incorporate the tight end for the first time this year.

“He’s got plenty of veterans on the offensive line, at running back and at wide receiver,” Wilder said this week. “We’ve made it very clear to Shuler that the number one thing he needs to do is manage the operation. If he does that, he will have success and be able to develop throughout the season.”

Despite all the experience, the Monarchs still have only 10 seniors on the roster, tied for the fourth-fewest in the country, and Wilder said he and his coaches will have to remember to be patient as the season progresses.

“I think it will take us a minute to get to who we are going to be,” he said.


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