South Carolina will return to a two-quarterback rotation against Georgia on Saturday, but Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp won’t say whether senior Perry Orth or freshman Brandon McIlwain will start.
“We have a plan for what we’re going to do, but both guys will play,” Muschamp said. “We will see how it pans out through the week.”
The Gamecocks (2-3 overall, 1-3 SEC) take on Georgia (3-2, 1-2) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium. McIlwain has started the past three games, but was replaced by Orth in the fourth quarter of last week’s 24-13 loss to No. 8 Texas A&M.
“Sometimes all the offense needs is a little spark,” Orth said after the game. “That’s kind of my thing, throwing the ball down the field, and they gave me a chance to do that.”
McIlwain had 34 passing yards and 7 rushing yards in three quarters against the Aggies. For the season, he’s completed 53 percent of his passes for 567 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and rushed for 98 yards. Orth has completed 57 percent of his passes for 373 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and has no rushing attempts.
“The both bring awesome things to the table,” tight end Hayden Hurst said. “Brandon is young, but he’s learning. He’s doing a heck of a job for an 18-year-old. I don’t know if I could have done this as an 18-year-old. Perry is kind of the seasoned veteran. He’s been around. He’s played SEC games. They both bring tremendous things to the table.”
Orth, who’s started 10 games in his career, is the more skilled passer at this point, but McIlwain forces defenses to play the Gamecocks differently because of his rushing ability. That threat is one reason A.J. Turner was able to go 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game against Texas A&M last week, Muschamp said.
“We are watching film (Sunday night) on Georgia and evaluating, ‘What do we need to do to win the game?’ ” Muschamp said. “That’s the whole decision that is made and then who bests suits that to win the game and then who practices and performs the best throughout the practice week will decide who is going to play the most.”
The Gamecocks coaches expect to have decided on a starting quarterback by Tuesday, but won’t announce it before the game, Muschamp said.
“Those guys are a little different in their skill set, so we need to make Georgia work on that,” Muschamp said. “When we are not successful offensively, it is not all one guy’s fault. There are multiple things that are happening. That’s the decision you make, ‘Is it going to make a difference making a change?’ Brandon did some good things (against Texas A&M). It wasn’t all on Brandon. We just weren’t getting the ball vertically down the field. Perry has been a little bit better than that in camp, and going back to early in the season. The way they started playing us in the third quarter, we needed to be able to do that.
“That was the reason the change was made. It wasn’t necessarily that Brandon was playing poorly. We just needed to get more production going down the field.”