BLYTHEWOOD — What came first, Cocky The Gamecock or the egg?
Success or stability?
Steve Spurrier has all four — the popular college mascot and Cocky’s enormous chic shell used at home game introductions, plus a proven program with a pair of good quarterbacks.
South Carolina’s head football coach was smiling a lot Thursday at his annual golf outing at Cobblestone Park Golf Club, playful even. The garnet visor was on backwards. Spurrier likes his team, his assistant coaches and the Gamecocks’ chances of having a third straight 11-win season.
And nothing makes Spurrier happier than quarterback depth, which he has — at least for 2013 — in the names of senior Connor Shaw and junior Dylan Thompson.
It wasn’t this way a few seasons ago, when South Carolina was a Stephen Garcia injury away from probably considering the Wildcat formation as a staple.
Or less than one year ago, when Shaw was hurt in the 2012 opener at Vanderbilt and Thompson entered and seemed as overmatched as most Nashville waiters with lyrics and a guitar.
Sleep better this summer, coach?
“I don’t worry about the season during the summer,” Spurrier said with a big grin. “When I was in Ireland playing golf? Or when I was in the Bahamas?”
He slept well in Lake Tahoe, at his Florida beach house and on a mountain vacation, too.
But football thoughts are happier with the first one-two quarterback punch Spurrier has had in his nine years at South Carolina, the kind of depth he enjoyed during those glory years at Florida.
“Connor Shaw is our quarterback, winningest QB in school history, 17-3,” Spurrier said. “Tough, gritty performer. He can run with it, he can throw it, he can make plays.
“Dylan is an excellent player also. A good drop-back passer.”
Consider the sub-modest historical record of South Carolina quarterbacks. It started with that first game against Furman on Christmas Eve in 1892, a 44-0 loss in Charleston after Lee Corso picked the Gamecocks to win. Through the 2010 season, only three South Carolina quarterbacks beat Clemson and won a bowl game in the same season.
Steve Taneyhill, 1994.
Phil Petty, 2001.
Blake Mitchell, 2006.
Now the Gamecocks have two on the same roster. Shaw completed the double at the Capital One Bowl in 2011 and Thompson won at Clemson and was the winning pitcher in the Outback Bowl last season.
There are other encouraging signs of stability. Whammy Ward is back for a second full season as defensive coordinator, a nice carryover with so much turnover behind the defensive line.
Mike Davis, the heir-apparent to Marcus Lattimore, “has improved so much since the Clemson game that he’s not even the same player,” said running backs coach Everette Sands. Which is nice, considering Davis ran for 53 yards on 13 carries and scored at Clemson.
But two capable quarterbacks make for one backfield full of options, real or imagined.
“Now there might be a place in there where they both play,” Spurrier said of his quarterback duo. “They could be on the field at the same time. I’m trying to come up with something new. Everybody is always looking for a new ball play.”
Inside the well-rested summer mind of Steve Spurrier …
“Have you ever seen a play where two quarterbacks are in the shotgun, but you don’t know which one they’re going to snap it to?”
More likely: Thompson at quarterback and Shaw at slot receiver. Spurrier said Shaw has Wes Welker-like potential as an NFL prospect, and Shaw said at SEC Media Days last week he loves the idea of playing some at receiver.
From Wildcat worries to overflowing quarterback talent.
No wonder Spurrier has been sleeping well all over the world.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.