The Daily Gamecock

Gamecock offense begins and ends with Mitch


Last Tuesday, South Carolina head coach and former Heisman-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier announced that Connor Mitch will be South Carolina’s starting quarterback this season. Mitch is the most experienced of the Gamecock signal-callers with a whopping six career pass attempts.

The redshirt sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina, was a high school stand out. The Wakefield High School product was a four-star recruit in 2013, choosing South Carolina over traditional powerhouses such as Auburn, Alabama, North Carolina and LSU.

Mitch ranks second all-time in most passing categories in North Carolina, trailing only Chris Leak in career yards and touchdowns. Mitch holds the NCHSAA record for most passing yards in a game when he racked up 667 through the air. His nine touchdown passes that same game also set the state record.

Mitch finished his high school career with 12,078 passing yards and 153 touchdowns, including an incredible 63 in his senior season alone.

Mitch has always had an arm; the key for Mitch will be taking care of the football.

“Connor will have every opportunity to take the reins and run with it,” Spurrier said when he announced Mitch as starter. “The competition was extremely close, but we had to make a decision. We will give him all the support we can. As long as he takes care of the ball, keeps his head calm, he very easily could be the quarterback the entire year."

Winning Spurrier’s blessing for year-long quarterback is a feat in and of itself. Prior to former quarterback Connor Shaw’s arrival on campus, Spurrier often rotated quarterbacks throughout the season, games and even individual series.

This season, it looks like Mitch will be given at least a game to prove himself worthy of the starting job. Spurrier is historically capricious when it comes to quarterbacks, but he's given no indication that he will rotate quarterbacks or bench Mitch against North Carolina unless the game begins to get out of hand.

Backing up Mitch are redshirt junior Perry Orth, redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia and true freshman Lorenzo Nunez.

Since Nunez enrolled late in the summer, he had to learn the offense more quickly than the veterans. While Spurrier acknowledged that Nunez will need more time before he is able to run the offense for an entire game, he hinted that Nunez will not be redshirted and that he will play this season.

Many have speculated that Nunez will run the “Wildcock” offense headed by junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper last season. The dual-threat quarterback is versatile and could see playing time in a number of different ways this season.

Orth is a former walk-on that earned a scholarship in July. No one aspect of his game stands out as elite, but Orth is a reliable backup who is the most likely candidate to see the field if Mitch does not play up to Spurrier’s standards.

A season ago, former quarterback Dylan Thompson played well for the Gamecocks, but threw 11 interceptions, including a game-losing pick-six at Kentucky.

Though Thompson threw for more yards and touchdowns than Shaw did the previous year, the offense scored more in 2013 due in large part to Shaw’s 24:1 touchdown to interception ratio.

For this year’s Gamecocks to be successful, the signal-caller must take care of the football. South Carolina should have a strong ground game, so Mitch does not have to throw for 300 yards a game like last year’s one-dimensional offense.

If Mitch can take care of the football and spread it out to the above-average-skill position players this season, the Gamecock offense has the chance to match, or even exceed, last year’s production.