Josh Kendall

Risk vs. reward: Gamecocks’ passing game must improve

South Carolina Perry Orth’s delivers a pass last season. The USC quarterbacks must improve their touchdown-to-interception ratio this year.
South Carolina Perry Orth’s delivers a pass last season. The USC quarterbacks must improve their touchdown-to-interception ratio this year. 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.

South Carolina’s passing game will need to find the right balance between risk and reward, a ratio the Gamecocks struggled with last year.

The team’s collective quarterbacks had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 1.41-to-1. That’s not even close to good enough. Only four teams in the SEC (Auburn, Missouri, Kentucky and Vanderbilt) had a worse ratio. Mississippi State, which was piloted by senior quarterback Dak Prescott, led the SEC with a ratio of 6.6-to-1. The Gamecocks don’t need to get to that rarified air, but they do need to get north of 3-to-1 to have an effective passing game, and closer to 4-to-1 would be better.

South Carolina threw 12 interceptions last season – nine from Perry Orth on 261 attempts, three from Lorenzo Nunez on 52 attempts and zero from Connor Mitch on 29 attempts. Twelve interceptions in a season is not too many. In fact, it was in the top half of the SEC.

First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper will preach patience to his quarterbacks this spring.

“If you have to lay the ball off, lay the ball off,” Roper told FoxSports.com in a 2014 interview. “You don’t have to throw it beyond the sticks every time on third down. Take what the defense gives you. If I don’t get angry with him when he doesn’t convert a third-and-seven because he laid it off, and then he can hang his hat on that. He can believe in me and trust in what I’m teaching.

“That is kind of the method in the process, to give a quarterback something to hang his hat on when making decisions. If you are changing all the time on him because you ride the emotions of the game and you get frustrated for not producing, then a guy can’t be good.”

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