It seems a little early for head coaches to start naming successors to quarterbacks who have moved on to the NFL. After all, spring practice is still two months away and the confetti is just being cleaned up from the field at the Rose Bowl after Florida State was crowned BCS champs.
But Steve Spurrier doesn't care about your timelines.
The Head Ball Coach named the 6'3", 218-pound rising senior as South Carolina's 2014 starting quarterback during a ceremony honoring the 2013 team at halftime of Saturday's basketball game, according to Josh Kendall of The State.
So much for a QB competition. Dylan Thompson "is without question going to be our quarterback unless he gets hurts," Steve Spurrier says.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) January 18, 2014
It's a great move by Spurrier to make it public now, as opposed to waiting until spring practice starts.
The last meaningful extended look the college football world got at Thompson was in South Carolina's 27-24 double overtime win over Missouri, when he started in favor of Connor Shaw, who injured his knee the previous week vs. Tennessee.
The results were less than inspiring.
Thompson completed 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception in three quarters before giving way to Shaw, who came off the bench to lead the Gamecocks out of a 17-point hole and to the win.
Thompson's stagnant performance that night was the exception, not the rule.
During his three-year career, he has routinely filled in for Shaw with great success. Aided by Mike Davis and the ground game, he played the majority of South Carolina's 28-25 come-from-behind win on the road over UCF in September, and threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 2012 win over then-No. 10 Clemson in Death Valley.
He has a big arm, is accurate downfield, doesn't have the legs of Shaw but is able to buy enough time behind the line and is familiar with South Carolina's weapons, including leading returning receiver Damiere Byrd and rising junior Shaq Roland. Roland came on strong late, catching 16 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns over the last five games of 2013.
"Has all the intangibles you need for success," quarterbacks coach G.A Mangus said. "He has patiently waited for his opportunity and has been one of our leaders for a while."
Thompson's primary competition would likely be Connor Mitch, a 6'3", 227-pound rising redshirt freshman who came to Columbia with a 4-star rating, according to 247Sports.com. Mitch can sling it, but considering the landscape of the SEC East this season and South Carolina's early-season schedule, Spurrier knows he needs Thompson's experience in there.
|Aug. 28||Texas A&M||Columbia, S.C.|
|Sept. 6||East Carolina||Columbia, S.C.|
|Sept. 13||Georgia||Columbia, S.C.|
|Sept. 20||Vanderbilt||Nashville, Tenn.|
|Sept. 27||Missouri||Columbia, S.C.|
Georgia and Missouri will break in new full-time starting quarterbacks, Florida has Jeff Driskel coming back from his ankle injury that ended his 2013 season early and Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt's expected starting quarterbacks are still all relatively inexperienced.
The East is wide open. The Gamecocks have a tough early-season schedule and plenty of familiar weapons around Thompson to be successful.
If he didn't know before, now Thompson knows it's on him and can act as the starter without any threat from the competition. Confidence breeds success, and Spurrier publicly naming Thompson the starter has to be a huge confidence boost for him.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats courtesy CFBStats.com.