COLUMBIA - South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson already has the full confidence of coach Steve Spurrier and his teammates, and for good reason.
The senior may be entering his first season as a full-time starter, but he's proven to be a capable college quarterback. He has led the Gamecocks to massive road victories. He has 14 touchdown passes with just five interceptions in his career.
This fall, Thompson will try to prove something else: the ability to play quarterback in the NFL.
The chance to showcase pro skills goes to every quarterback who starts in the SEC. There's a reason four quarterbacks who played in the league last season were drafted in May. They face stingier, more complex defenses, often on the biggest stages. Thompson will be no different. Bleacher Report picked Thompson as the one South Carolina player whose NFL Draft stock will certainly rise this season.
"Though Dylan Thompson will serve as South Carolina's starting quarterback for just one season, he has an excellent opportunity to show up on NFL radars this year," Luke Brietzke of Bleacher Report wrote. "Thompson will be more of a prototypical NFL pocket passer than predecessor Connor Shaw."
Indeed, Thompson is a more prototypical quarterback than Shaw, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cleveland Browns.
Thompson stands 6-foot-3, two inches taller than Shaw. For all of Shaw's greatness - he didn't become the program's all-time winningest quarterback for nothing - Thompson is considered the better passer.
Still, the burden of leading South Carolina's offense doesn't all fall on Thompson's shoulders. He'll have plenty of help this season, something that should allow him to show all his skills.
"Talented receivers, a steady run game and one of the conference's top lines should create an optimal environment for Thompson to improve his stock," Brietzke wrote.