Senior Perry Orth and freshman Brandon McIlwain are leading the race to become South Carolina’s starting quarterback, and Orth’s broken collarbone makes McIlwain the man of the moment for the Gamecocks.
“Brandon and Perry had distanced themselves coming out of Saturday because of Perry’s command and Brandon’s ability,” Muschamp said Monday at the weekly meeting of the Columbia Rotary Club.
The Gamecocks new head coach emphasized the competition is not complete (in part because Orth will not be able to return to football activities until June 1), but McIlwain will take the first snaps Tuesday when South Carolina holds its ninth practice of the spring (which will be open to the public beginning at 4:30 p.m.)
“We don’t have a clear cut quarterback,” Muschamp said. “This competition will go into fall camp.”
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Muschamp also underscored the importance of mobility in the decision-making process, which helps explain why Orth and McIlwain have begun to separate themselves.
“We are going to have to be an offense that incorporates the quarterback in the run game so we have to have a guy who’s got some legs to do that,” Muschamp said.
Orth started eight games last season, throwing for 1,929 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions and gaining 235 yards on the ground. McIlwain is a four-star prospect who enrolled early in order to compete for the starting job in 2016. He threw for 1,720 yards and rushed for another 1,545 as a senior at Council Rock North High School in Newtown, Pa.
“Brandon McIlwain is extremely talented,” Muschamp said.
Quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, who suffered a hyperextended knee and a sprained LCL a week ago, could return to practice next week, Muschamp said. The Gamecocks started the spring with five scholarship quarterbacks – Orth, McIlwain, Nunez, Connor Mitch and Michael Scarnecchia – listed as co-starters.
“Connor Mitch has done some nice things,” Muschamp said. “Michael Scarnecchia has gotten some snaps.”
Muschamp spoke to the Rotary Club for more than 30 minutes Monday, touching on a wide range of subjects and updating the audience on his opinion of the roster he inherited when he took over for Steve Spurrier on Dec. 7.
One player who is beginning to catch Muschamp’s eye is junior tailback David Williams, who has carried the ball 131 times for 555 yards in two seasons as a reserve.
“David Williams and A.J. Turner have really done a nice job,” Muschamp said. “That’s a position I thought we took some steps forward on Saturday, especially David, I thought he ran extremely hard on Saturday.”
It’s also apparent Muschamp still has concerns about the team’s perimeter playmakers.
“Deebo Samuel is a really good football player. Bryan Edward is going to be a really good player. Past that, we need to improve. That’s just the bottom line,” he said.
Defensively, the coach singled out linebackers Bryson Allen-Williams, Skai Moore, T.J. Holloman and Jonathan Walton.
“That’s four good football players who can play winning football,” Muschamp said. “Our strength of our defense is at linebacker.”