Quarterback Questions: Spurrier seeks new Gamecocks' starter
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had few issues at the quarterback position the past few seasons with the Gamecocks.
His reputation for having little patience with those in the position could be tested this year.
''Who's the quarterback?'' is the biggest question of spring ball - and one that Spurrier said Saturday the competition will remain open into fall practice.
It has been about seven years since the Gamecocks entered with a true quarterback competition. The talented yet troubled Stephen Garcia was the unquestioned starter in 2009 and 2010 before Connor Shaw took over to lead the Gamecocks to three straight 11-win seasons from 2011-13.
Last year, senior Dylan Thompson entered spring as the starter and wound up setting a single-season school record for passing yards. With Thompson gone, the Gamecocks are looking to several little used performers to take over behind center.
Connor Mitch, who'll be a third-year sophomore next fall, has gotten the most work in the spring, despite just throwing six career passes in college. Mitch is shuttling at the position with former walk-on Perry Orth and freshman Michael Scarnecchia.
None of the three have significant college experience - giving Spurrier much more work to do as position coach in quite some time.
''The quarterbacks, none of them shined,'' Spurrier said Saturday. ''It was not encouraging on the offensive side.''
The Gamecocks went through a 10-series scrimmage on Saturday and will close workouts with their annual Garnet-and-Black spring game on April 11. A forlorn-sounding Head Ball Coach said the competition will be settled later rather than sooner.
''It'll drag into the summer in all likelihood,'' he said.
None of South Carolina's quarterbacks gave Spurrier much to consider in the scrimmage, combining to go 10-of-22 for 121 yards and an interception. The two touchdowns the Gamecocks put up came when the offense worked on its overtime schemes, starting at the opponent's 25-yard line.
''Connor Mitch held the ball too much at times and threw late at times, as did all of them,'' said Coach Spurrier. ''But the protection probably wasn't all that super at times either. Hopefully we can learn from it.''
Spurrier was known as ''Captain Hook'' at Florida and early at South Carolina because of a quick trigger when things didn't go the way the one-time Heisman Trophy winner hoped.
But Spurrier's settled into a quarterback rhythm the past six years, identifying the best quarterback and letting him run. In 2009 and 2010, that was Garcia who helped guide the Gamecocks to an upset of No. 1 Alabama and the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title as a junior.
The next three years, Shaw became the leader and brought South Carolina an unprecedented run of three straight 11-2 seasons. Spurrier has called Shaw the greatest quarterback in school history.
Thompson ably filled the role last fall and threw for 3,564 yards, besting the 27-year-old mark of current broadcaster Todd Ellis.
If there's a clear quarterback successor, no one's saying.
''Right now, I feel like it's all even because we've all been getting equal reps,'' Orth said. ''We're all pretty confident that the best player is going to have a chance come August.''
That might be incoming freshman Lorenzo Nunez, a dual-threat quarterback from Kennesaw, Georgia, in Shaw's mold expected to get a long look by the Gamecocks. Spurrier said Nunez has attended some spring practices and been given plays and schemes to work on before arriving on campus this summer.
''We've got a lot of work to do,'' Spurrier said. ''A lot of improvement to do.''