Spring practice has wrapped up across the SEC, and the top storyline for most teams coming out of it is still the quarterback position. Some teams named a starter in the spring. Others are leaving it open until fall camp begins in August.
This week, we’ll examine five of these open competitions in the conference and debate who we think each team should choose as its starting quarterback.
We finish up today with the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Alex Scarborough: Brandon McIlwain is the most talented quarterback on the roster. Of that I have little doubt. But if I'm Will Muschamp, I'm not ready to throw him to the wolves yet. I'd be too worried about what pieces of the young QB will come back.
While I understand the sink-or-swim school of thought, I'd rather give McIlwain time to develop with a clipboard in his hand. Confidence is a fragile thing, and I wouldn't risk breaking it long-term on a player with his arm and athleticism. Stunting McIlwain's potential for a short-term gain doesn't feel worth it. If there was a better roster and a realistic chance of competing for a division title, then maybe I'd feel differently about it. But in the midst of a rebuilding effort, why not hand the reins to a veteran quarterback in Perry Orth?
Orth is a good enough quarterback to serve as a bridge. That may not sound exciting, but stability is important right now. With four years on campus and eight starts under his belt, whatever Orth lacks in ability he makes up for in experience. And that experience will go a long way for a program in transition.
Greg Ostendorf: Give McIlwain the job. Did you see him in the spring game? He looked confident, completing 19 of his 26 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he can run the ball, which makes him a perfect fit for Kurt Roper’s up-tempo offense.
I know, I know. I’m the same guy who earlier in the week said Georgia should go with Greyson Lambert, rather than turning the offense over to true freshman Jacob Eason. But there’s one big difference between Georgia and South Carolina. Georgia has enough talent – and two really good running backs – to compete in the SEC East. I just don’t think the Gamecocks have enough firepower on either side of the ball to make that same claim.
So while starting Orth might lead to one or two more wins this season and maybe even a bowl game, the better long-term decision would be to let McIlwain gain experience and build for the future. He’s going to struggle, like most true freshman quarterbacks do, but he’ll be better for it. After all, the reason he stuck with South Carolina was because he wanted to play.
And ultimately, what’s more important? That Muschamp turns the program around and starts competing for division titles in the next two or three years? Or that his team reaches a bowl game this year?