Former South Carolina football player Dylan Thompson knows what it is like to have moving parts at the quarterback position.
Thompson watched Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw split time at quarterback in 2010 and 2011, then shared time with Shaw in 2012 and 2013, partly because Shaw was banged up and because Thompson played well.
The 24-year-old, who turns 25 on Tuesday, has sympathy for USC’s current quarterbacks who have been in and out of the lineup.
The Gamecocks have started Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain already this season and are expected to start Jake Bentley on Saturday against UMass.
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“As a quarterback if you’re the guy that’s getting switched in and out, I’ve been there, and in my perspective it’s not fun,” Thompson told The State. “This isn’t to go against anyone, it’s just my experience with it. Knowing that there’s a good chance if you make a mistake you’re coming right out, that’s a position that you just feel a little uneasy about.”
It is hard to gain confidence when you are not on the field, Thompson said.
“The simple answer is, ‘Oh, well just go play great.’ It’s not as easy as that. If you make a mistake, you need to learn from it by going back out on the field and doing it. I think that’s what the toughest thing is, especially with young guys a lot of times,” Thompson said. “Words are words. People can tell you that they believe in you and trust you and everything, and then you make a few mistakes and you’re out of the game. ... I don’t care how many stars they have or what the expectation is, it’s tough.”
Two of the USC quarterbacks battling for playing time are true freshmen in McIlwain and Bentley.
Thompson believes it is unrealistic for a freshman to come in and be counted on to be the man from the start.
“I thank God that I wasn’t good enough to play as a freshman, just the expectations those guys have to deal with. They’re not always prepared, and it’s not anyone’s fault,” Thompson said. “They’re just young, and the expectation in recruiting today is someone has some stars on their name and they’re better than anyone on the roster, and I just don’t believe that at any school.”
Thompson added that sometimes coaches might feel pressure to play the young guy, a move that can be dangerous, particularly in major college football.
“I think that fans and media, good or bad, push the coaches to play these guys or give them a look when the guy just needs to develop, a lot of times,” he said. “I think if it’s at South Carolina, Clemson, The Citadel, Charleston Southern, whoever it is, you’ve got to give guys time to develop in a lot of situations and especially in a high level of football like the SEC or ACC.”
Thompson did not receive extended playing time until his redshirt sophomore year of college, and he admitted it was hard to wait his turn.
At the same time, Thompson believes not playing until later in his career better prepared him to have success. He started all 13 games his senior year and set the South Carolina record for passing yards in a season.