South Carolina fans shouldn’t spend time worrying about having a first-year starter at quarterback this season.
For starters, it seems to be a lucky charm in recent seasons.
Seven of the past 10 quarterbacks to start the BCS national championship game were first-year starters – Alabama’s Greg McElroy and A.J. McCarron, Auburn’s Cam Newton and Nick Marshall, Oregon’s Darron Thomas, Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Four of those newcomers won the title.
And then there’s math. A recent study by CollegeFootballMatrix.com found that teams returning both their kicker and punter (which the Gamecocks are) had a better comparative winning rate than those returning their starting quarterback.
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Besides, pretty much everybody else in the SEC in going to have a new signal caller. Auburn (Marshall), Florida (Jeff Driskel, who started the 2013 season before missing most of the year due to a broken leg), Kentucky (Jalen Whitlow), Ole Miss (Bo Wallace) and Mississippi State (Dak Prescott) are the only league teams likely to have a returning starter under center.
So, why bother worrying about senior Dylan Thompson?
“He’s doing exactly what we thought he’d do,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s been here five years; he’s ready to take charge and encourage the guys. He’s a lot like Connor. He does everything the coaches ask, and he’s a good student. We don’t have to worry about his conduct or anything like that. He’s played a bit.”
The Old Guy: Aaron Murray started four years and left as the SEC’s leading career passer with 13,166 yards.
The New Guy: Senior Hutson Mason started the final two games of 2013 after Murray suffered a knee injury. He threw for 968 yards and five touchdowns
The Old Guy: James Franklin was an on-again, off-again starter for three seasons and led the Tigers to the SEC championship game last year.
The New Guy: Maty Mauk, a sophomore who started against South Carolina last year, is a former Parade All-American who threw for 18,932 yards in high school.
The Old Guy: Senior Justin Worley, a Rock Hill native, could be the old guy and the new guy. He has played in 17 games and thrown for almost 2,000 yards.
The New Guy: Along with Worley, the Volunteers are auditioning sophomores Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman and freshman Riley Ferguson this spring.
The Old Guy: Connor Shaw won a school-record 27 games in his career and finished 17-0 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The New Guy: Dylan Thompson is 3-0 as a starter and has thrown for 1,827 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions the past three seasons.
The Old Guy: Austyn Carta-Samuels transferred from Wyoming and started for the Commodores for one year, missing the bowl game due to an ACL tear.
The New Guy: Sophomore Patton Robinette finished out the season for Carta-Samuels, but he’s competing this spring with redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary. The 6-foot-4 Robinette was Tennessee’s prep player of the year in 2011.
The Old Guy: A.J. McCarron left school with two national championship rings and the Crimson Tide’s career records in passing yards, total offense and completions.
The New Guy: Jacob Coker transferred from Florida State, where he was Jameis Winston’s backup last year, and is immediately eligible.
The Old Guy: Brandon Allen was a first-year starter last year and returns for his junior season, but he may not be the starter after a woeful and winless SEC season.
The New Guy: Rafe Peavy, a three-star prospect out of Missouri, saw the writing on the wall and enrolled early to compete this spring for the starting job.
The Old Guy: The well-traveled Zach Mettenberger, who played for Georgia and the Tigers, came into his own last year, throwing for 3,082 yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
The New Guy: Anthony Jennings started the bowl game due to a Mettenberger injury and the former four-star prospect is trying to hold off hotshot signee Brandon Harris this spring.
The Old Guy: Johnny Manziel, you may have heard of him. Manziel won the Heisman and bedeviled Nick Saban. He’ll be tough to replace.
The New Guy: Senior Matt Joeckel, sophomore Kenny Hill and freshman Kyle Allen will compete this fall. The winner will shine in Kevin Sumlin’s offense.