What McIlwain’s departure means for USC’s QB depth chart
Former South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth wasn’t taken by surprise by the news his one-time teammate Brandon McIlwain chose to leave the Gamecocks with plans to transfer. The timing, however, did catch him off guard.
Speaking to Bill Gunter and Tim Hill on 107.5 FM on Thursday morning, the Gamecocks’ 2016 opening day starter said he’d texted with McIlwain Wednesday night after the news broke. He said McIlwain felt the fit at South Carolina wasn’t quite as good as he’d hoped.
“I was a little surprised that it was coming this early,” Orth said. “I could kind of see it coming. I kind of figured, the way, the direction the football program was headed in, the way Jake had played and the way they’re kind of advertising the football program, now that I’m outside of it, looking like they’re going with Jake (Bentley).”
Orth admitted he wasn’t sure exactly what had happened on the baseball side.
Orth knows the challenge of getting stuck on the wrong side of a quarterback carousel. He opened 2016 with the job and got supplanted by McIlwain after two games. After an up-and-down run for the freshman, Orth was reinserted for about five quarters (the end vs. Texas A&M and most of a loss to Georgia), and then Bentley took over for good.
As someone who admitted he was no fan of sitting on the bench as his career, Orth had a piece of advice for his former teammate.
“I told him, ‘Don’t ever question your ability just because they decided to go in a different direction,’ ” Orth said.
The former starter admitted McIlwain might have been thrown into action a little too soon, but he also said it wasn’t as if the staff misled him about his chances in the recruiting process. Bentley’s early enrollment was a development, but once they got on campus, it was a matter of performance. (Coaches after all feed their families on the backs of athletes performing, Orth suggested.)
Orth also noted his position as a young player was different from McIlwain’s in a key way. When Orth sat behind Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw, he felt he was waiting his turn. McIlwain had been surpassed by someone his own age, and seemed unlikely to get an opening in the near future.
McIlwain has said nothing publicly about his next landing spot, and Orth expects he’ll likely not make a quick decision and wait for coaches to reach out and almost “re-recruit” him leading into the summer. Since McIlwain played in one game this baseball season, he wouldn’t be able to go to junior college in that sport, though Orth made an allusion to him trying to get a redshirt.
Orth said he left McIlwain with the advice to not just go to a school that would fill his head with ideas of starting but still to look for one key thing.
“Make sure you go somewhere that they’re going to give you every opportunity to play,” Orth said.