WILL CONNOR MITCH LAND THE STARTING JOB AT SOUTH CAROLINA?
Redshirt sophomore Connor Mitch is the clear frontrunner at the quarterback position coming out of spring practice … although he’s thrown a total of six collegiate passes (going 2 for 4 for 19 yards against Furman and 0 for 2 against South Alabama last year). In fact returning All-SEC wide receiver Pharoh Cooper has more collegiate passing yards and touchdown strikes than the Gamecocks’ three-deep quarterback depth chart.
Still, Mitch – a 6-foot-3, 223-pound signal caller from Raleigh, N.C. – threw for 4,661 yards and 63 touchdowns as a high school senior in 2012, completing 62 percent of his passes. Impressive? Indeed.
In fact, that’s 3,800 yards (and 61 touchdowns) better than Kennesaw, Georgia native Lorenzo Nunez threw for during his senior season at Harrison High School in 2014.
Also Mitch – like most big-time college quarterbacks – enrolled early at South Carolina to get a jump start on learning the offensive playbook. Nunez did not – even though Spurrier and quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus strongly encouraged him to do so.
Nonetheless, buzz is building about the 6-foot-3, 195-pound quarterback – who ran for 1,193 yards and fourteen touchdowns during his senior season in addition to his paltry passing totals.
Part of the Nunez buzz is due to Gamecock head coach Steve Spurrier – who continues to tout the incoming freshman in describing South Carolina’s wide open 2015 quarterback battle. Spurrier has made it clear Nunez will compete for the starting job when he enrolls – and Nunez stuck with the Gamecocks based on the assumption he would not be asked to switch positions.
But the real reason for the buzz isn’t one player’s ability versus the other’s, it is the evolution of the college game … especially its evolution in power conferences like the SEC which are dominated by blazing fast, pro-style defenses.
Such defenses have created the need for quarterbacks who do more than just drop back in the pocket and deliver accurate strikes downfield.
“Dual threat” quarterbacks – or field generals who can make plays with their feet as well as their arms – are critical in neutralizing team speed on defense.
Connor Shaw was a dual threat. Dylan Thompson was not. And while Thompson’s offense was by no means to blame for the Gamecocks’ 2014 woes, it’s safe to say a quarterback who can move is going to get a much closer look than one who cannot.
And Nunez runs the forty-yard dash in a blazing fast 4.4 seconds …
Just look at Deshaun Watson, the true freshman quarterback who ended Clemson University’s five-year run of futility against its arch rival (with a torn ACL, no less).
Nunez didn’t come close to putting up the sort of numbers Watson did during his high school career, but he remains the highest-rated quarterback Spurrier has signed since landing Stephen Garcia in 2006.
Here’s a video which includes some highlights from Nunez’s senior season …
(Click to play)