- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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It’s been Dylan Thompson's show this spring at quarterback for South Carolina, and he’s been the picture of consistency.
He’s making quick decisions, throwing the ball on time and throwing it where it’s supposed to go.
In short, he looks like a returning starter who’s been on the big stage in the SEC.
But anybody who thinks there’s a quarterback controversy brewing at South Carolina doesn’t really know Thompson, or Connor Shaw, for that matter.
Shaw, who’s out this spring while recovering from foot surgery, is 17-3 as the Gamecocks’ starter. And when Shaw has gone down with an injury, Thompson has always been there to deliver.
He filled in the whole way against Clemson last season when Shaw was sidelined and passed for 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 27-17 win over the Tigers. Shaw returned for the Outback Bowl, but was injured late. Thompson calmly trotted onto the field and threw the game-winning 32-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds to play.
In Steve Spurrier’s world, playing two quarterbacks isn’t a bad thing, especially when they’re both proven winners.
“They both deserve to play, and I’d say we’ll end up needing them both next season,” Spurrier said.
However it shakes out, Thompson said he and Shaw are both on the same page.
They just want to win.
“Me and Connor have a great relationship,” Thompson said. “We're different in the way we play the game and think a little bit differently, but we push each other. He's a great leader, and we're good friends. Sometimes it’s crazy how people try to make it into a controversy and twist it into something that it's not. I think it’s been awesome because we can learn from each other."
Even though Shaw hasn't been playing this spring, he's been there every step of the way.
“We talk about every play, the three of us along with (quarterbacks) coach (G.A.) Mangus, and what each of us sees," Thompson said. "We work together. That’s the way it is, and it’s been that way. Connor buys into the team, not who’s going to be the quarterback of the team, and I do, too.
“We just happen to play the same position.”
Shaw will be a senior next season, and Thompson will be a fourth-year junior. So there is some separation.
But the only future Thompson can see is 2013 and doing his part to get the Gamecocks back to the SEC championship game. Even though they’ve won 11 games each of the past two seasons, their only trip to Atlanta in school history came in 2010.
“I think we’re really close, and I also think going through that stretch we had last year (Georgia, at LSU and at Florida) taught us a lot about the kind of mental toughness it takes to win a championship in this league,” Thompson said. “You can’t look at it as having to get through several games in a row. If you do, with the teams you play in this league, it will drive you crazy. It really is one game at a time.”
Spurrier has been impressed with Thompson’s ability to see and pick up on things at the line of scrimmage. That’s been a big emphasis this offseason and spring.
Thompson, who's more of a pocket passer than Shaw, can already tell a huge difference from where he was a year ago at this time.
“That’s what is so great about playing for coach Spurrier and coach Mangus, having an answer for every single defense and every single blitz you see,” Thompson said. “I feel like I’m getting there. But until I get to the point where I can say, ‘OK, here’s the protection and here’s the play,’ and know from natural instincts what to do, then I’m not there yet.
“That’s where I want to be by the end of the spring.”
17hDavid Ching and Edward Aschoff