COLUMBIA, S.C — A big emphasis in South Carolina's spring practice thus far has been the search for a backup for starting quarterback Dylan Thompson.
The battle was supposed to be between sophomore Brendan Nosovitch and redshirt freshman Connor Mitch.
Oh yeah, and Perry Orth, a walk-on, is out there too.
Well, with the spring game a week away, Orth has managed to play his way from afterthought to front-runner.
Even so, he knows his position is tenuous.
"I don't think that's written in stone," said Orth, a 6'1", 211-pound sophomore. "Me, Brendan and Connor are still out there competing, trying to to figure out who's going to be the best guy come the fall."
As established starters with nothing much to prove, both Thompson and running back Mike Davis haven't gotten much work in scrimmages this spring.
They're OK with it, to a point.
“I don’t want to come out here and stand on the sidelines and root everybody else on,” Thompson said after Thursday’s practice. “That’s cool when I have to, but I want to be out there in the action. I don’t care who is out there, I just want to be out there helping the team, and the more I’m out there, the more I learn. It just helps us.”
In each of South Carolina’s first two scrimmages, Thompson, a fifth-year senior, has led a touchdown drive on the first possession, then turned it over to the backups.
Davis, a junior, has done even less this spring, but it’s understandable. He’s even more of a proven commodity than Thompson.
He rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns last season and is firmly entrenched as the Gamecocks’ top tailback.
“It’s a nice feeling,” he said, “but I like to compete. They may say the starting job is mine, but I don’t feel like it’s mine. I just go out there and compete and try to help the other guys the best I can.”
Davis has been able to sit back and watch the competition for the backup spot at tailback. He says to keep an eye on redshirt freshman David Williams.
"Everybody has been impressive in their own way," Davis said. "I don't know if you guys have looked at David Williams, he's fast strong. He reminds me of Adrian Peterson."
Williams has been limited the last three practices with a hamstring injury.
Through Thompson's Eyes
Thompson has practiced with a "helmet cam" this week, recording things from his viewpoint.
"It's good because it's kind of like, 'through my eyes,'" Thompson said. "You get to see what I'm looking at on certain plays, why I'm checking out of a play and getting into something better or maybe when I make a mistake. It also has audio, so they get to hear what I'm saying. It's pretty cool."
Offensive Line Looking Good
South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott is pleased with the play of his offensive line thus far.
"I'm pretty pleased with the first-team guys, although it's not completely set," Elliott said. "But it's a pretty good group right now."
The only starter Elliott has to replace is right guard Ronald Patrick. Mike Matulis, an oft-injured junior, is now healthy and has gotten most of the work with the first unit at right guard after moving over from tackle.
"Mike has been real consistent at right guard," Elliott said. "You've got to be real athletic to play tackle. If you can play the tackle position and play with leverage, you can move inside."
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise indicated.