Late in the 4th quarter against Vanderbilt, Gamecock sophomore starting quarterback Luke Doty re-injured his foot. A few days later he was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Fortunately for South Carolina, the team has a backup in graduate quarterback Zeb Noland that it trusts to play smart and get the job done.
“I have 100% confidence in Zeb, I think he has a great understanding of, not just our offense, but the game of football and how to play quarterback," offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said on Wednesday. "He knows what his strengths and weaknesses are, and I think he knows how to utilize those and protect the team, protect the ball and allow us to be productive.”
Noland started the first three games for the Gamecocks and was replaced in the Georgia game by Doty after injuring his hand. Noland’s recovery time for that injury was short, and he is currently completely healthy.
Transitioning from a coach to a player in such a short time was tough for Noland, but now he says he feels comfortable as a player in this offense.
“It happened all really fast,” Noland said. “But it really has slowed down, I think that’s because I got a schedule every single week that I can stick to.”
Noland used his time as backup wisely. He was constantly studying film with Doty, knowing he would need to be ready just in case Doty went down again.
“Having to step back and be Luke’s backup for a couple of weeks made me enjoy all the little things,” Noland said. “I didn’t have to take as many reps at practice, so I can stand back there and talk to whoever I wanted to and watch it from a different perspective and give a different perspective.”
Coaches have stressed the game plan will not change with Noland in as QB, but it is clear Noland and Doty have different play styles. Noland is not the mobile quarterback Doty is, so protecting him in the pocket will be important.
“We give (Zeb) a hard time. He had the long run of one (yard) on the opening play against Georgia, but he can move well enough to protect himself," Satterfield said. "It’s going to be less working in practice working on quarterback runs, and just working on finding ways to let Zeb utilize his athletic ability, whether it be throwing the ball or just extending the play.”
While running is not Noland’s strong suit, he is a player the team feels can move the ball down the field with ease.
“He’s got a really nice touch, and again just the amount of snaps he’s taken, you have to utilize the play-action game with him because he’s not a runner,” Satterfield said. “Coach Beamer is on me all the time, like, 'Sat, take this many shots each quarter.' He’s always pushing and pushing making sure we are attacking downfield, and that’s one thing Zeb is really good at,”
Noland understands the task he has in front of him. He wants to go out and play the last five games with everything he has, not just for himself, but for his team.
“We are only guaranteed five more opportunities, and there’s a lot of old seniors in this group that have (been) playing really good," Noland said. “Go out there give it everything you got, just enjoy it, because your time is limited."
Noland and the Gamecocks will travel to Texas A&M on Saturday. The game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m.