COLUMBIA — With the offseason in its infancy, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier isn’t even hinting at a possible quarterback competition.
At every available chance, the Head Ball Coach has placed his full support behind former backup Dylan Thompson. No longer is the senior-to-be swallowed in the shadows of Connor Shaw, the program’s all-time winningest quarterback. Now, it’s Thompson’s turn to be handed the keys to the program.
Spurrier introduced Thompson as “next year’s quarterback” to the packed crowd at Colonial Life Arena during halftime of South Carolina’s basketball game Saturday. A few moments later, while speaking with reporters, he made it clear Thompson would be his quarterback.
“Of course he is,” Spurrier said. “Why open it up when he’s the only one who’s played? Played well. He’s without question going to be our quarterback, unless he gets hurt. After that, there’s no clear-cut second. That’s probably our challenge this spring, to see if we can find our No. 2 guy.”
The battle to be South Carolina’s backup — the only quarterback competition Spurrier is willing to acknowledge at the moment — will likely be between sophomores Brendan Nosovitch and Connor Mitch.
It shouldn’t be surprising the starting quarterback job belongs to Thompson. He often received meaningful snaps in games, even with Shaw as the starter. He’s also a fan favorite, with a resume dressed to impress.
Thompson led South Carolina to a win at Clemson in 2012 in Shaw’s absence. He also helped direct comebacks in the 2013 Outback Bowl against Michigan and at Fiesta Bowl champion Central Florida this past season.
On the surface, Thompson is a different type of quarterback than Shaw. He’s known more as a passer than runner, while Shaw excelled at both last season. Still, Spurrier doesn’t anticipate changing his offense for Thompson.
“Dylan actually can run a little bit,” Spurrier said. “The UCF game, he ran that bootleg into the end zone just like Connor did against Clemson. … He can run that zone read pretty well, too.”
Thompson’s numbers dipped this past fall. His production was often as inconsistent as his playing time. He tossed four touchdown passes and three interceptions, down from his 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in 2012. He also finished with 783 passing yards after exceeding the 1,000-yard mark as a sophomore.
Spurrier isn’t concerned. Thompson, standing 6-3, represents the type of pocket passer often associated with the Head Ball Coach’s offense. Early in the offseason, his confidence in the new quarterback is unwavering.
“We’ll worry about this coming year a little later on,” Spurrier said, “but Dylan will be our quarterback.”