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August 31, 2013
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
Winning state titles for a nationally ranked high school team, being recruited to FBS-level football programs and balancing athletics, academics and friendships are all part of the routine for three-star quarterback Shuler Bentley of Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes.
The 6-foot, 195-pound passer is one of a limited number of high school quarterbacks with all of that on his plate. He shares all of it with his father, Bobby -- the head coach for the No. 33 team in the RivalsHigh 100.
The younger Bentley is grouped with Tyler Queen of No. 46-ranked Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb and Hayden Sphire of No. 16-ranked Suwanee (Ga.) North Gwinnett as a rare trio of college football prospects who have a head coach for a father. Balancing the dynamics on and off the field can make for an interesting relationship.
"It can be hard sometimes because we both expect to succeed," Shuler Bentley said. "When things are going well it is great, but when we don't get the results we want it is tough.
"Sometimes, Mom has to step in and tell us to drop it when it really gets going. She is the ultimate judge, but I know that he is looking out for me and wants what's best. I think that is most important."
His father helped put the Rebels football program onto the national landscape while winning consecutive state championships from 2002 through 2005 and producing a list of college prospects before taking a head coaching position at Presbyterian College. He returned as an assistant coach and athletic director at Byrnes in 2009 and took over as head coach this season.
The balancing act goes both ways. The elder Bentley has to be a father to his son as well as a filter for the numerous prospects who rely on his guidance for recruiting.
The elder Bentley is thankful for the ability to bring more players into the process.
"It helps me a lot that we have other talented guys here in that, when I am taking Shuler on a recruiting trip, we can take the other guys with us," he said. "That really helps me not show favorites because he is my son, but a lot of other players' parents are counting on me as well.
"It is tough as a dad, though, because I start out asking questions like I would for any other kid but I do find myself saying, 'Look, I am asking you this as his dad.'"
For now, the 6-foot-4, 207-pound freshman is enjoying the backseat.
"It is a little crazy right now, having those offers without really doing anything on the field," Jake Bentley said. "We have a tradition of quarterbacks at Byrnes and people are already expecting a lot out of me, but right now it is easy because Chas and Shuler have taught me so much."
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said the Bentleys are typical in one way when it comes to maintaining a level ground while dealing with recruiting and the family dynamic.
"In my experience, high school head coaches with a quarterback son are much more respectful of the process than anyone else, really," he said. "Those guys have a very good understanding of what level their kids can play at, and they don't oversell it.
"Also, I really think there is a levelheadedness that translates to the son. The pattern is that the kids are mostly pro-style quarterbacks who have been at the position for a long time -- youth ball, junior varsity and then the leader of the team -- and they study film and have a maturity level that is off the charts for a high school kid."
Queen is a third-year starter for North Cobb and is committed to Auburn. The 6-foot-2, 236-pound prospect from the class of 2015 has a strong arm and the discipline that Farrell alludes to.
"When you go out in the community, there are a lot of eyes on you as the quarterback, but it is even more when your dad is the coach," Queen said. "I think I am a good kid anyways, but I do have to hold myself to a higher standard because I am the quarterback and I am the coach's son. What I do reflects on my dad, and it sets the bar for what everyone else on the team can do.
"I think it is all about surrounding yourself with good people and not looking for trouble, but I also don't want people to say, 'Hey, that's Shane Queen's son over there doing that,'"
The elder Queen said having his son as the quarterback makes his job easier.
"Having that trust factor with Tyler is important to me," he said. "There is something comforting about knowing that your quarterback has your back and is always on your side because he is blood.
"It is probably harder on him than it is on me. I get to spend an extra hour in the weight room and two hours on the practice field that other dads don't get to have, but he really can't go out with his buddies and be a normal kid because he's my son."
If North Cobb suffers a defeat, it is a little easier for Tyler to escape because his parents are divorced, but he still falls back on advice that his father has given him.
"My dad taught me to have a short memory like all the great quarterbacks," he said. "We have had some tough times, but it doesn't get too heated. We try to stay calm, and I try to be like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady -- if I throw an interception, I know I have to forget about it and get back on the field and get us a touchdown."
The Sphire family does not have the same situation to fall back on.
The younger Sphire is a two-star quarterback at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds. It is his first year as a starting quarterback for his father, Bob. In the last 15 years as a head coach, the elder Sphire has had only one season of fewer than 10 wins.
To accomplish what was best for the program, the elder Sphire passed over his son for the starting spot last season.
"We had a good competition last year, but Michael Haynes was what was best for our football team and I had to go with him," Bob said. "Hayden was ready to play every week and took some meaningful snaps for us, but it wasn't his team. This year it is, and I've really enjoyed going through this process with him."
The younger Sphire has yet to land his first major college football offer, but he believes it is coming -- as does his father.
"I have had a lot of guys go to the next level, and I think he has the ability to play (FBS football)," the elder Sphire said. "He has the arm, and he understands the game. We have talked, and he has told me that one day he wants to be a coach, too."
The North Gwinnett team is loaded with talent. The group has three starters on the offensive line who have been together since they were sophomores, and some of the skill players are being looked at nationally.
Defensive end Dante Sawyer is a four-star prospect, while receivers Nate Brown and Caleb Scott are receiving attention. Running back C.J. Leggett has multiple offers, and the class of 2015 features five-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, as well as Anree Saint-Amour and Jaye Stackhouse, among others.
Sphire said that, while he has 100 sons on his team, only one is by birth.
"I made a conscious commitment to doing my dad responsibilities," he said. "I took some time this summer to do things away from the team because it was beneficial for Hayden and I felt like that was the right thing to do.
"To be honest, that opened Pandora's box a little bit because other parents took advantage of some things that we like to control, but I felt like it was things that I needed to be there for and we regrouped from there."
Farrell believes the process does not consume the fathers, and it is something that he and college coaches appreciate.
"Dealing with a head coach who is also a father of a quarterback is incredibly easy when compared to just a father of a quarterback," he said. "It is night and day because so many parents think their son is the next superstar, but coaches have perspective because they have seen kids with talent and they know where their son is in the process."
Queen believes his approach with his son was the right one.
"I didn't release Tyler's tape until six months ago, and I didn't tell anyone about him," the elder Queen said. "I know every parent thinks that their kid is the next Chipper Jones or Joe Montana, but really the word got out because Rance Gillespie at Valdosta [(Ga.) High] and Mickey Conn at [Loganville (Ga.)] Grayson were telling people that there was a quarterback at North Cobb.
"I didn't want to be pushing my son down the throat of college coaches because that isn't the right way to do it, and I think they appreciated it. I never asked anyone if they were going to offer him or not, and I just let it play out," he said. "Honestly, I have asked coaches when they were going to offer my other guys but I didn't with Tyler. I don't know if I was working against him just to not to give him special treatment, but I thought that was what was right to do.
"It worked out because Auburn came in and he is very happy there, but it wasn't because of me and I wanted to make sure that it was because of him."
No matter the situation, all the coaches said that the advice is given equally -- son or not.
The elder Bentley said the situation for his son is the same as for any other player.
"The academic profile, stability of a coaching staff and a gut feeling are things that have to be taken into account when picking a school," he said. "You have to be ready to be somewhere for four years if you never play, and that is something I tell everyone."
What he doesn't tell everyone is when to be home at night.
"My dad has little elves everywhere," Shuler Bentley said. "It is great that we get to share the football stuff, but it is different being his son than being a regular kid on the team. Even though we live in a small town and everyone knows everyone, I feel like he is always around."
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