HOOVER, Ala. — Connor Mitch may be the No. 1 quarterback on South Carolina’s first preseason depth chart, but the starter for the season opener remains undetermined, according to head coach Steve Spurrier.
“We’ve had three quarterbacks that rotated around during spring practice, and statistically in the spring game, they’re very even,” Spurrier said Tuesday a SEC Media Days. “Percentage-wise, about the same, yards, touchdowns, all that. So we’re going to keep competing during preseason practice. We’ve got a month before the first game. So we should be able to figure out who can play the best.”
Mitch, a sophomore, is batting with walk-on Perry Orth and redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia. Regardless of who starts the opener Sept. 3 against North Carolina in Charlotte, Spurrier seems certain to play more than one, as he famously did at Florida and earlier in his career at USC.
“I’ve been a coach to play two quarterbacks. I think you all know that,” Spurrier said. “And you can win with two. There’s nothing in the rule book that says you have to have one. So if we do play more than one, it will be because both of them are about the same ability-wise.”
Receiver Pharoh Cooper said “it is kind of a concern” that a starter has not yet emerged. “Quarterback is a tough position,” he added. “Throwing the ball, they all throw it well. But it’s more than just throwing the ball. You have to read coverages. They’re doing well right now, and maybe one will separate himself.”
Spurrier has long advocated the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, and Tuesday he praised Gov. Nikki Haley for spurring its lowering in the wake of the June 17 shooting death of nine churchgoers during a Bible study at Emanuel AME in Charleston.
“It was a tragedy, obviously, nine innocent people to be killed like that,” Spurrier said. “I applaud our governor for setting the initiative to remove the flag, and obviously it was received very well by just about everyone in our state and around the country. Obviously, all of us in college sports, we know the importance of equality, race relations, everybody getting along. So certainly, I think all the coaches all over — I know all over South Carolina were happy and glad to see the flag come down.”
Another quarterback who may figure into the mix at USC is freshman Lorenzo Nunez, who wasn’t on campus for spring practice but has been participating in summer workouts. Nunez was a dual-threat quarterback in high school who passed for 800 yards and rushed for nearly 1,200.
“He’s an excellent athlete who can really run,” Spurrier said. “So there’s a spot for him to jump in there and maybe hand it to Pharoh, or switch around with Pharoh and the quarterbacks. There are all kinds of things you can do with a quarterback who can run and pass.”
Is Cooper considering leaving for the NFL after his this season? “I’m focused on this year,” the junior said. “I think about it all the time — that’s what a college player would do in my situation. But I’m still in college right now. I play for the Gamecocks, and I’m going to help my team win this year.”
Cooper made 69 receptions for 1,136 yards last year, far and away the most for USC in both categories. He is the only Gamecocks receiver with any extensive game experience returning for this season.
Offensive lineman Will Putnam committed to USC on Tuesday, picking the Gamecocks over Virginia Tech. Putnam, from Harrisburg, N.C., becomes USC’s first offensive lineman to commit for the 2016 recruiting class.