David Cloninger

Simply the best: Ranking the Top 25 QBs in USC history

David Cloninger picks his best 25 quarterbacks in South Carolina history.

1. CONNOR SHAW (2011-13)

Presided over the winningest stretch in program history, finishing with a 27-5 record as a starter, including 17-0 at home.

2. TOMMY SUGGS (1968-70)

Only man who ever quarterbacked the Gamecocks to a conference title. Never losing to Clemson doesn’t hurt.

3. TODD ELLIS (1986-89)

Career passing leader with 9,953 yards who was the winningest QB in school history until Shaw.

4. STEVE TANEYHILL (1992-95)

Only one winning season, but first bowl win, two wins over Clemson and my, that hair!

5. JEFF GRANTZ (1972-75)

11th in passing yards, 24th in rushing yards, Grantz (below) directed two seven-win seasons.


6. MIKE HOLD (1984-85)

While he only started two games that year, his “Comeback Kid” persona helped define the Black Magic team of 1984.

7. STEPHEN GARCIA (2008-11)

Third in passing yards, architect of the only win over a No. 1 team in history, yet still “what might have been.”

8. PHIL PETTY (1999-2001)

From a winless first season to 17 victories, including two consecutive Outback Bowl victories.

9. BLAKE MITCHELL (2005-07)

Fifth on the career passing chart and the guy who helped get Steve Spurrier’s offense off the ground.

10. SYVELLE NEWTON (2004-06)

Electrifying athlete (below) who just needed the ball in his hands to make something happen.


11. GARRY HARPER (1978-80)

Harper’s one of only five USC quarterbacks who amassed 20 wins. His total ties Garcia and Taneyhill.

12. BOBBY FULLER (1990-91)

Transferring from Appalachian State with coach Sparky Woods, he threw for nearly 5,000 yards in two seasons.

13. JOHNNY GRAMLING (1951-53)

First USC QB to pass for 2,000 career yards, Gramling never had a losing season.

14. DYLAN THOMPSON (2012-14)

One full season and other great moments, he left USC as its single-season passing leader and one of the finest clutch players (as seen below in the Outback Bowl after the 2012 season).

15. MACKIE PRICKETT (1954-56)

Won 16 games as a starter, including a victory over then-national power Army.

16. RON BASS (1973-74, 1976-77)

Immortalized by Hollywood as “Sunshine,” he backed up Grantz early in his career but had two 1,000-yard seasons at the end.

17. ALLEN MITCHELL (1983-84)

The starter during Black Magic and the year before, Mitchell led USC’s multi-headed running attack.

18. MIKE FAIR (1965-67)

A forgotten man who followed Dan Reeves and preceded Suggs, Fair threw for almost 2,500 career yards.

19. DAN REEVES (1962-64)

Came close to two 1,000-yard seasons under coach Marvin Bass, winning eight games. If only he had some help.

20. COREY JENKINS (2002)

He was solid year in his only season as starter, but that season broke a two-year streak of bowls (thanks, David Pollack).

21. ANTHONY WRIGHT (1996-98)

A three-year starter (below), his misfortune was playing for a sinking ship before the life buoy was discovered (Lou Holtz).


22. GORDON BECKHAM (1979-82)

A solid QB who played as a backup with the George Rogers teams and starter for two years B.J.M. (Before Joe Morrison).

23. CHRIS SMELLEY (2007-08)

He was quiet and did his job, although he never could get a permanent stake at starter. He still had 3,210 career yards.

24. DONDRIAL PINKINS (2002-04)

“The Thrilla from Camilla” never could get over the hump, although he does hold the two longest pass plays in USC history.

25. ERIK KIMREY (2000)

The most accomplished QB who only started one game. It wasn’t that game (Alabama, 2000) when he threw “The Fade.”

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