There will be some science and some art involved in South Carolina’s selection of its starting quarterback. The basic math is this: explosive plays minus turnovers equals winner. The harder part is the less quantifiable side of the equation.
“I do think analytics play a role in sports, I really do and you do have to look at the numbers, but it’s more than just numbers,” first-year South Carolina offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “You have to apply why certain things happened, not just that it happened, so there definitely is gut that comes into play in that. Everything – off the field, on the field, in the classroom – all those things come into this decision.”
Senior Perry Orth, junior Connor Mitch, sophomores Lorenzo Nunez and Michael Scarnecchia and freshman Brandon McIlwain all shared snaps in the first week of spring practice, but Gamecocks coaches are eager to begin whittling down the competition.
“We are trying to do it as quickly as we possibly can because every rep is a valuable rep, but we want to do it with as much information to make a logical decision as best we can,” Roper said.
Orth, who started eight games last year, has taken the first-team snaps in the brief practice periods that have been open to the media.
“Really, what that is is an indication of where their season ended, and we kind of picked up from where they left off,” Roper said. “It’s completely an open competition, but that’s where we’ve started. Perry has a good presence about him.”
Mitch, who started two games last year, struggled during Thursday’s practice, with two interceptions in one drive.
“He’s a guy that’s still trying to learn, still trying to figure out what’s going on, but the biggest thing is he’s got to take care of the football better than he is right now,” Roper said.
Nunez, who started two games last year, could be a candidate to move to wide receiver if he doesn’t win the starting quarterback job, but Roper doesn’t want to worry with that hypothetical yet.
“I think it’s too early to talk about that,” Roper said. “Obviously, he’s a guy who can make plays with his feet, but right now we’re trying to see if he can be the quarterback.”
All the Gamecocks quarterbacks are having moments where they’re overloaded, said Roper, which is expected because they’re learning not only a new offensive system, but new terminology as well.
“I think we have to do a better job of going from the meeting room with information and applying it on the field quicker, but there is a ton of information,” Roper said.
South Carolina’s quarterbacks weren’t made available to the media this week, and the players who are talking about the competition are doing their best to remain neutral.
“It’s been a friendly competition. I haven’t seen anybody have any envy with each other,” running back David Williams said. “Everybody has been friendly, helping each other out with stuff.”
“I don’t see any advantage toward anybody right now,” said wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who added that McIlwain is “pretty good.”
When asked the most important qualities in a quarterback, Roper started with mental toughness and accuracy.
“I don’t think there is anything harder in sports than to play quarterback and obviously what makes it so difficult in this league is the pass rush,” he said. “There are defensive linemen in this league that make you have to play at a really fast level.”
A look at USC’s QBs:
Has been with first-team offense in drills open to media, and OC Kurt Roper says he has “a good presence.”
Threw two INTs on one drive Thursday and is “still trying to figure out what’s going on,” Roper said.
Athletic QB has yet to take a snap visible to media; Roper says it’s too early to talk about position change.
The dark horse would have to do something unexpected to be in the mix at the end of spring practice.
The second QB into practice drills on Thursday and Friday, the four-star recruit has done everything asked of him.