New QBs make USC's job easier

South Carolina safety Brison Williams brings down Clemson's Roderick McDowell during last season's game at Williams-Brice Stadium. Williams has moved to cornerback this season. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

Steve Spurrier points out that having a new guy at quarterback hasn't been such a terrible thing lately.

"The last two years, the Heisman winner has been a first-year quarterback," South Carolina's head coach said. "Is that correct?"

Yes, Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel in 2012 and Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston in 2013.

It's also true that South Carolina this season faces an unusual amount of untested college passers early in the season. That should benefit the Gamecocks' young secondary.

Quarterbacks on the schedule the first month of the season:

Thursday night at Williams-Brice Stadium: Texas A&M sophomore Kenny Hill in his first college start.

Sept. 6 at home: East Carolina's Shane Carden, a senior who threw 33 touchdown passes last season, a formidable NFL draft prospect and perhaps the best quarterback South Carolina will face all year.

Sept. 13 at home: Georgia's fifth-year senior Hutson Mason makes his third college start Saturday night against Clemson.

Sept. 20 at Vanderbilt: Sophomore Patton Robinette was shaky in three starts last season (four touchdown passes, five interceptions).

That's a departure from the first four games of 2013 when the Gamecocks had to deal with veteran starters Bryn Renner (North Carolina), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Blake Bortles (Central Florida), plus Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Sammuels.

Murray carved up South Carolina for 309 yards and four touchdowns in a <URL destination="http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=332500061">41-30 victory in Athens.

</URL>The Gamecocks survived 358 yards passing from Bortles, who wound up going to the Jacksonville Jaguars as the third overall pick in the NFL draft. It was Central Florida's only loss of the season.

So let's say you have a secondary that includes true freshman Al Harris Jr. starting at cornerback, Brison Williams moving from safety to cornerback and sophomore Chris Moody breaking into the lineup at strong safety.

You would rather face Kenny Hill.

"This Kenny Hill has been there a while; they have a lot of confidence in him," Spurrier said. "Who knows how they're going to play. These first-year quarterbacks are just now getting their opportunities. They may play better than the guy before them. Nobody knows.

"Most of them have been there a while and they're anxious to prove that they can play the game also."

Hill probably will give the Gamecocks fits, though it might be next year in College Station. He's 6-1, 215 pounds. Hill got in four games last season to mop up for Johnny Football and threw a touchdown pass against Sam Houston State.

His father is Ken Hill, a former big league pitcher who while with the St. Louis Cardinals finished second to the Braves' Greg Maddux in the 1994 National League Cy Young Award voting.

Aside from Clemson's Tajh Boyd, the best quarterback the Gamecocks faced over their last nine games last season was Mississippi State's Dak Prescott.

This year, they must deal with Nick Marshall at Auburn on Oct. 25. All the former Georgia defensive back did as a junior was become the fourth SEC quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards. He also threw for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdown passes.

South Carolina gets Florida veteran Jeff Driskel (and new Gators' offensive coordinator Kurt Roper) in Gainesville on Nov. 15.

Clemson's Cole Stoudt might have turned himself into an NFL draft prospect by Nov. 29.

But by mid-October, the South Carolina secondary will have had time to earn the kind of confidence that comes easier when not fending off Aaron Murray and Blake Bortles.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff