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Gamecocks' Luke Doty impresses despite shortened spring practice

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Luke Doty has already impressed USC staff despite limited spring practice. File/Andrew J. Whitaker

MYRTLE BEACH — Bobby Doty walked in the house and smelled Monday’s supper. Grilled shrimp, pasta and steamed vegetables were on the menu.

His son, South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty, can’t play football right now, so he’s putting other skills taken from his first college semester to good use.

“He’s quite a cook, because of all the stuff he learned there,” Bobby said. “Chicken, salmon, shrimp, steak … They do such a great job at Carolina of teaching the players about nutrition and eating right, and he’s bought in 110 percent.”

Some is necessity. Luke, last year’s state “Mr. Football” winner who enrolled in January, is sticking to USC’s prescribed schedule. That’s eating every two hours, mostly high protein, and mixing his own smoothies.

It’s desire, too. Luke Doty knows that while he’s a freshman, the Gamecocks’ quarterback room is anything but settled after presumptive starter Ryan Hilinski began strongly but regressed in 2019, much due to injury. Colorado State grad transfer Collin Hill is recovering from a torn ACL.

Doty has as good a chance to play, even to start, as Hilinski and Hill once the Gamecocks get back on the field. Like he has throughout his life, he’s staying at maximum readiness, whether that be eating, throwing, lifting or studying.

“I’ll tell you this, and it’s my personal opinion, but Luke Doty’s a winner,” said his high-school coach, three-time state champion Mickey Wilson. “He’s going to find his way on the field and play quarterback at the University of South Carolina. I can promise you that.”

There were only five spring practices, with only one in full pads, but Doty’s preparedness wowed the coaches.

“His willingness to learn and master the offense is going to give him a chance to be really, really good,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “Because he has a skill set the other guys don’t have.”

Each of the "other guys" brings a quality Bobo covets.

Hilinski has the strongest arm.

Hill has the ingrained knowledge of what Bobo wants from their time at Colorado State.

Doty is the best dual threat, able to extend plays with his legs and throw on the run.

Of course, no decisions were made with such a brief spring practice, not that there would have been firm declarations if USC had gone through the full period. But it’s not automatic, not even close, that Doty will be like most freshmen and redshirt.

He’s too valuable to be on the bench.

“He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached,” Wilson said. “He has that mentality of he wants to be great but he’s going to work to get to that point. A lot of kids want it, but don’t necessarily want to work for it.”

Doty got an early jump on his college career, although it was bittersweet. A broken thumb on his throwing hand on the second series of last year’s playoffs nixed his shot at two straight state championships, although Myrtle Beach still reached the title game.

He did what he could, missing only one day of practice (when he had surgery) so he could help backup Ryan Burger learn as much as possible. That continued on game days, Doty ready with the iPad so he could show Burger what was happening play to play.

Doty came to campus, got on the lifting and nutrition plan and sculpted 22 pounds of muscle onto himself in two months. When he wasn’t studying his schoolbooks (he’s majoring in biological sciences on a pre-med track), he was studying his playbook.

“They do the Zoom meetings with coach Bobo, and he and my other son, Jake, go to a field and throw with some of the other guys in the area,” Bobby said. “Mentally, he’s there. He’s probably more mentally strong than he is physically strong, and he’s a strong kid.”

Of course, coming to school behind a QB like Hilinski, who started the Gamecocks’ final 11 games, has its detractors. Most assume that Doty may take a while to impact, if he ever does.

He of course doesn’t want to, but is prepared to wait. As a sophomore at Myrtle Beach, Wilson made the difficult decision to go with a senior veteran over Doty at QB.

“He said, ‘What do you need me to do?’” Wilson said. “We started him at receiver. We had to get him on the field somehow — I personally clocked him at a 4.4 40-yard dash as a sophomore.”

That sentiment may extend to USC. And it may be not just as a player that needs to be on the field, it may be as the guy barking the signals.

He's a good cook, too. 

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

From Rock Hill, S.C., David Cloninger covers Gamecock sports. He will not rest until he owns every great film and song ever recorded.

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