QB Quandary: Spurrier sorting out 4-way race at position
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has had a mostly smooth stretch of succession at his favorite position the past six years with Stephen Garcia from 2009-11, Connor Shaw in 2012-13 and Dylan Thompson last summer the unquestioned starters heading into camp.
These days, Spurrier is sorting out a four-way race for quarterback. Third-year sophomore Connor Mitch figured to be the favorite but is being pressured by junior Perry Orth, redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia and true freshman Lorenzo Nunez.
Spurrier thought Mitch had moved ahead of the others in the first week of camp. After checking the video from a short Saturday scrimmage, the coach said Sunday it remains a dead heat.
All four have their strengths.
The 6-foot-3 Mitch finished his high school career in North Carolina second all-time in that state's record books for yards passing (12,078) and touchdowns (153).
Orth spent the past two seasons as a walk-on before being awarded a scholarship by Spurrier this past week.
Scarnecchia, at 6-4 and 210 pounds, is a more traditional drop-back passer who threw for 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions during his senior year at Fleming Island High School in Florida.
Nunez is a dual-threat quarterback, like Shaw a few years ago, who Spurrier said brings a different dimension to the Gamecocks than the other passers.
The four quarterbacks have combined for just eight college passes.
Mitch had no illusions coming into camp he would be anointed the team's starter and understands he must put in more work to move out front.
''If coach Spurrier says it's equal, it's equal,'' Mitch said. ''That's more time for me to get better and step up next week.''
Nunez thinks the longer the competition goes on, the better his chances to move up the depth chart.
''I came in with confidence, with a chip on my shoulder,'' Nunez said. ''I wanted to prove that I could be that quarterback and that I could throw the ball, because people didn't believe I could throw the ball pretty well.''
Spurrier said there are multiple huddles going at workouts to give the quartet as many reps as possible. Gamecock coaches and staffers are charting everything the group does, looking for any edge to determine who'll start when South Carolina opens Sept. 3 against North Carolina in Charlotte.
''Right now, sometimes it goes good and sometimes it doesn't,'' quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus said. ''Now is the time to make mistakes and learn. We're letting the guys compete.''
Spurrier is not afraid about letting things play out to the end. In 2011, the last time South Carolina opened at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium, he announced two days before that Shaw, a sophomore, would start over fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia. A year earlier, Garcia had engineered perhaps the Gamecocks' biggest ever win, a 35-21 victory over then-No. 1 Alabama.
Shaw struggled early and Garcia rallied South Carolina from a 17-0 deficit to a 56-37 win over East Carolina.
Shaw took over for good later that 2011 season when Garcia was dismissed after multiple troubles.
Spurrier is in no rush to settle one of the biggest questions facing the Gamecocks this fall. And he has also made it clear that just because someone starts Week 1 does not mean he will start all season long.
''It'll work its way out,'' he said. ''We'll keep scrimmaging, keep letting those guys play a little bit more and see what happens.''