McIlwain looks best of South Carolina's QBs at spring game
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina is taking a long look at starting a true freshman at quarterback.
Brandon McIlwain threw two touchdowns and ran for another score at Saturday's Garnet and Black spring game. Although new coach Will Muschamp said the competition between at least five players will go on into the fall, McIlwain is leaving little doubt he will be in the mix.
''If he can learn to take control, and play the offense, I think he'll be the guy,'' said safety Chris Moody, who said he has watched McIlwain grow through spring practices.
McIlwain was 19-of-26 for 169 yards Saturday and showed speed on several runs. His chief competition for the job is Connor Mitch, who went 9-of-16 for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Some other quarterback candidates weren't on the field Saturday. Perry Orth, who was South Carolina's main starter last year, is recovering from a cracked collarbone. Lorenzo Nunez, who started two games last season, also is hurt. Jake Bentley, the son of running backs coach Robert Bentley, is skipping his senior year of high school to enroll in the fall and may get into the mix too.
The other quarterback going into the fall is sophomore Michael Scarnecchia, who was 8-of-13 for 99 yards on Saturday.
South Carolina has made none of the players competing for the starting quarterback job available to reporters this spring.
''Competition is our best friend as coaches. And we have plenty of competition,'' Muschamp said, adding the position is still wide open.
McIlwain enrolled at South Carolina in January and also plays baseball. The outfielder had no hits in seven at bats heading into the Gamecocks' Saturday afternoon game with Tennessee.
There are plenty of places South Carolina needs to get better after going 3-9 last season. The Gamecocks open with Southeastern Conference road games at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
Running backs averaged about 3 yards a carry on Saturday. Every receiver who caught more than one pass Saturday wasn't on the field at all in 2015.
Muschamp also has work to do on defense, which is his specialty. South Carolina allowed 27.5 points and nearly 430 yards per game last season to rank at the bottom of the SEC in both categories.
In earlier practices, Muschamp said his secondary was light years away from where it needed to be. He said Saturday his defensive backs are getting better but have to improve coverage on long passes.
''Look at some of the receivers we're going to be matched up with,'' Muschamp said.
Saturday marked a new era in South Carolina football. Since 1999, either Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier had been on the sidelines. Spurrier ended 10-plus years at South Carolina last season, where he treated the spring game like the last day of school, bringing in celebrities to catch passes from the sideline and throwing gimmicks throughout.
Muschamp - who lost his first head coaching job at Florida after going 28-21 in four seasons - spent the scrimmage standing on the field 15 yards behind each play watching to see how his quarterbacks handled pressure and where the eyes of his defensive players were looking.
He did allow one bit of fun, having former South Carolina and current San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram catch a 2-point conversion by stepping from out of bounds into the corner of the end zone.
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