As Judgment Days go, it’s hardly Revelations. Still, Saturday could be revealing for South Carolina’s football team.
Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp twice on Friday referred to Saturday’s scrimmage as “judgment day” – even once “a huge judgment day” – for his team and particularly his quarterbacks. Muschamp wasn’t ready to predict a wholesale change to his quarterback depth chart but indicated some tweaking is possible after Saturday’s workout.
“I think we have to narrow it down to two,” Muschamp said. “There’s no question.”
Those two still look like senior Perry Orth and freshman Brandon McIlwain, who came out of spring practice as the top two prospects for the job. Freshman Jake Bentley, who enrolled this summer, looks like he’ll land third on the depth chart “just strictly based on experience and reps and turns,” Muschamp said.
“From a talent level standpoint, (Bentley) is right there,” Muschamp said. “It’s just a matter of the experience within the offense.”
Orth and McIlwain have rotated the first-team snaps on a daily basis in South Carolina’s first 12 practices of fall camp. Asked if there has been any significant separation between the two, Muschamp replied “not really.”
“It’s a very well-contested battle right now,” he said. “The competition has been very healthy from the standpoint of it’s three really class young men that have been raised right, good people. At the end of the day, they want the best for the University of South Carolina.”
It’s the job of Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to figure out what that is – the stalwart Orth or the dynamic McIlwain.
South Carolina has put its top three quarterbacks into scrimmage situations throughout the week, but has limited the defensive options in each case. Saturday will be the first time the defense is allowed to call on its full complement of schemes, which will give the coaching staff its best look yet at which quarterback is best equipped to handle the Sept. 1 season opener against Vanderbilt.
If there is a shakeup in the quarterback rotation, South Carolina fans will be able to tell quickly as the first three practices of next week (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.) all will be open to the public. Saturday’s scrimmage is closed to the public and the media.
“We have created a bunch of one-minute situations all week and put them under duress where they have to manage the clock and manage the offensive football team,” Muschamp said. “Saturday will be a good judgment day for them.”
South Carolina’s offensive system will be shaped by which quarterback wins the job, Muschamp said.
“With Brandon’s legs, that does change some things obviously,” he said. “But Perry and Jake are both guys that are good enough athletes that you have to account for them defensively.”
And what if the Gamecocks can’t make a judgment Saturday or in the next two weeks? Muschamp still isn’t ready to close the door on the possibility of playing two quarterbacks throughout the season.
“I think we have to do what it takes to win,” he said. “If it takes two, it takes two.”