Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
When Connor Shaw was injured in the first game against Vanderbilt and Dylan Thompson was announced as the starter for East Carolina, there was a justifiable wave of uncertainly based on his 0-for-3 performance in relief of Shaw against the Commodores.
But as Daryl Slater of The Post and Courier wrote back in September, “Thompson’s wide receivers, tight ends and a couple offensive linemen came to his room and told him ‘We’ve got your back.’”
It’s a small example, probably redundant and clichéd to some because you would expect players to be behind their quarterback, no matter who it is.
But in the reality of football today with quarterback controversies constantly abound and players making comments to the media about who they prefer over the other, it was a refreshing moment for Thompson ahead of his first career start against the Pirates.
Beyond the East Carolina performance, Thompson’s contagious excitement on the field and ability to get play makers and role players involved throughout the game has elevated Thompson’s reverence among his Gamecock teammates.
Take an example from the Clemson game. Yes, Thompson got Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington involved, who combined for Thompson’s three touchdown passes. But how about Nick Jones?
I’ll admit in the trappings of copious amounts of bourbon, I pulled a Verne Lundquist from Happy Gilmore when Thompson kept targeting Jones against Clemson and proclaimed “Who the hell is Nick Jones?”
There was good reason. The 36-yard completion against Missouri was a distant memory as it was his only catch of the game in the second quarter and one of only five he had coming into the Clemson game.
Against the Tigers, Thompson found Jones four times for 45 yards, including a 31-yarder that helped set up a lead-taking touchdown.
What it means is that Thompson’s ability to get the ball to anyone regardless of where they are on the depth chart (or where they are downfield) is something that will only bolster the confidence his teammates have in him no matter who South Carolina is matching up against (especially when they go on the road to Athens next season to face Georgia).
And it doesn’t hurt when you’re a sophomore who is able to get a senior class their career sweep of their in-state rival either.