South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier is never one to hold back. The Head Ball Coach made a name for himself as a head coach at Florida from 1990-2001, when he won six SEC championships and one national title.
He got the most out of his quarterbacks, but also rotated them at will.
A similar trend emerged early in his South Carolina tenure, as former Gamecocks Blake Mitchell and Stephen Garcia went in and out of the doghouse during their careers. Connor Shaw stabilized the quarterback position from 2011-13, and that stability is apparently here to stay.
Spurrier named redshirt senior Dylan Thompson the starter early in the offseason, according to Josh Kendall of The State, but took it a step further on Tuesday, according to Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com.
“He’s our best player," Spurrier told Scarborough. "I think he’s by far our best player right now.”
Best player? By far?
On a team that includes running back Mike Davis—a true Heisman contender?
That's not just high praise. That's "climb to the top of Mt. Everest" coming from any coach, much less the Head Ball Coach—a guy who is notoriously demanding of his quarterbacks.
A confident Spurrier is a dangerous Spurrier, and his confidence in Thompson bodes well for the 2014 Gamecocks.
Why shouldn't he be confident in Thompson?
Sure, he struggled the last time he saw significant snaps as the starter, completing 15-of-27 passes for 222 yards, zero touchdowns and one pick before being bailed out by Connor Shaw in South Carolina's 27-24 double overtime win at Missouri.
That was the exception, not the rule.
Thompson threw for 261 yards in place of an injured Shaw in South Carolina's 28-25 comeback win over UCF in September 2013 and 310 yards and three touchdowns in a road start versus intra-state rival Clemson in 2012.
He's one of several first-year starters in the SEC who have significant experience, and he apparently has been putting in work this offseason.
Remember this from the February snow storm that hit Columbia?
Mother Nature didn't go to slow Thompson down, and judging from Spurrier's confidence, neither will SEC defenses.
South Carolina's offense in 2014 will resemble those he was successful with at Florida. Thompson has a big arm, is accurate downfield and can move enough to extend plays behind the line of scrimmage.
He'll have a talented wide receiving corps to rely on, including Shaq Roland—who caught six passes for 112 yards in the Capital One Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Roland's ability to take the top off of a defense combined with Davis' ability to set the one on the ground should allow Thompson to transition to the full-time starting role with relative ease.
Will he be the best player on the team by season's end?
Considering the situation he's stepping into and the confidence his head coach has in him, he certainly could live up to that lofty expectation.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All statistics are courtesy of CFBStats.com.
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