Zeb Noland, a graduate transfer and a former member of the Gamecock football coaching staff, was named starting quarterback for Saturday’s matchup against Eastern Illinois University on Tuesday, amid injury concerns surrounding sophomore Luke Doty.
Pete Lembo, associate head coach/special teams coordinator, said he was “excited for [Noland], as he gets a chance to put on his pads again and go out there in Williams-Brice in front of a great crowd on Saturday night.”
Marcus Satterfield, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, talked about the decision to start Noland for Saturday’s game.
“From the moment he stepped out there,” Satterfield said, “he showed that he gave us the best chance right now, early on in the season, to play clean football. And I think that's, you know, when it’s all said and done, we’ve got to give ourselves the chance to win the game. And I think he gives us that.”
Noland has years of experience at the quarterback position in multiple roles, having previously played for Iowa State and North Dakota and coached with the Gamecocks. The confidence and leadership that comes with experience like that has been noticed by coaches and players.
“You’re not really doing a lot of things that can trick him, because he’s a football coach,” Clayton White, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach, said. “He learned from coach Satterfield, and now he’s out there quarterbacking.”
One of the players who will be protecting Noland this weekend, redshirt senior offensive lineman Eric Douglas, detailed the leadership that Noland brings to the huddle.
“Sometimes if things are going wrong, you’ve got Zeb back there screaming at people,” Douglas said. “He’s just an older presence, and he knows what needs to be done, and he gets it done.”
Noland, touching on his presence in the huddle and his mindset when talking with his teammates, said “When you’re in a huddle, you’ve got about eight seconds to have a conversation with somebody. You can really jump on somebody and be like ‘Hey, I need you to run this route just like this right here.'"
Noland continued to talk about accountability, and being a leader in the huddle.
“If a guy misses a ball and gets cussed out, I’m going to go ‘Hey, I’m going to throw you the next one because I trust you. Don’t worry about it,'" Noland said.
This elevated level of empathy for his team is integral to what it takes to captain an offense, and if he performs well on Saturday, it might keep him in the starting job.
Noland said that when Luke Doty is healthy again, he’s not going to give the spot back freely. When asked if the quarterback spot is a true competition, Noland said, “oh yeah, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”
Noland and Doty had a conversation about the possibility of competing for the starting quarterback spot before the season had started. “Luke and I have told them we’re willing to do whatever it takes to win football games; it doesn’t matter who’s on the field,” Noland said.
The Gamecocks take on the Eastern Illinois Panthers at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.