Josh Kendall

Gamecocks quarterbacks must be on target more

South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth (10) led the Gamecocks last year with 8 starts, throwing for 1,929 yards, 12 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.
South Carolina quarterback Perry Orth (10) led the Gamecocks last year with 8 starts, throwing for 1,929 yards, 12 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. gmelendez@thestate.com

South Carolina starts its first practice under Will Muschamp on March 15. The State will take the 15 days of the month leading up to that to look at 15 “keys” for the Gamecocks as they prepare for Muschamp’s first season.

It’s a safe bet first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper is going to base a lot of his decision about the starting quarterback on completion percentage. The Gamecocks’ new passing game, like all passing games really, is very reliant on hitting a lot of throws.

For example: Duke quarterback Anthony Boone hit 64 percent of his passes in 2013, the season when Roper’s stock really skyrocketed as an offensive coordinator candidate. Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel hit 54 percent of his passes under Roper and ended up benched and then at Louisiana Tech.

If South Carolina’s offense is going to go, whoever starts at quarterback needs to have numbers much more like Boone’s than Driskel’s. Last season, the Gamecocks’ quarterbacks completion percentages broke down like this: Lorenzo Nunez (61.5), Perry Orth (54.8), Connor Mitch (44.8).

South Carolina’s team completion percentage of 54.4 percent ranked 11th in the SEC. The Gamecocks have 15 spring practices for Roper to figure out which passer is the best choice to keep that number higher than 60 over the course of a season.

USC’s spring QB roster

Don’t mistake Will Muschamp’s liberal use of the word “spread” to describe his offense to mean South Carolina wants a running quarterback. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper would like a quarterback who is mobile but won’t sacrifice the ability to throw the football.

“We use spread principle runs, but we still teach the same passing game we taught Eli (Manning at Ole Miss),” Roper said.

Roper will take a long look at all five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this spring – Connor Mitch, Brandon McIlwain, Lorenzo Nunez, Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia. Mitch, Nunez and Orth have starting experience, while Scarnecchia has limited snaps and McIlwain just arrived from high school.

Spring practice “is going to be huge for everybody,” Roper said.

Mitch most closely fits the Manning mold of pass-first and pass-second quarterback, and the others offer varying degrees of athleticism.

▪  Perry Orth, Sr. 6-0, 196

▪  Connor Mitch, Jr., 6-3, 198

▪  Lorenzo Nunez, So., 6-3, 210

▪  Michael Scarnecchia, So., 6-3, 207

▪  Brandon McIlwain, Fr., 6-0, 198

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