COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Steve Spurrier said South Carolina’s offense improved on Saturday, just not enough to show a clear frontrunner among the four players competing for starting quarterback.
The Gamecocks coach said he was happier with the offensive showing in the second stadium scrimmage of fall camp. However, he said Connor Mitch, Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia and Lorenzo Nunez didn’t separate themselves in the race.
“All the quarterbacks did a lot of good things,” Spurrier said. “Shoot, I wished one of them would’ve outplayed the rest. But if you look at the stats, probably pretty similar.”
South Carolina opens the season Sept. 3 against North Carolina in Charlotte.
Mitch is a third-year sophomore who was expected to take control of the job from last year’s senior record-setter Dylan Thompson. But Mitch threw two interceptions and didn’t have a touchdown in the closed session.
The biggest offensive play came from tailback Brandon Wilds, who broke off a 70-yard TD run.
The offense produced five touchdowns and a field goal — a significant improvement from its two-touchdown, one field goal last week in a scrimmage open to fans.
Spurrier kept out fans and media for Saturday’s workout.
Mitch was 5 for 10 passing for 71 yards, junior Orth was 5 of 10 for 56 yards, redshirt freshman Scarnecchia was 6 for 10 for 58 yards and true freshman Nunez was 3 of 3 for 44 yards.
Spurrier said earlier in the week that the offense would have a place for Nunez this fall. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Nunez is more of a dual-threat quarterback who combined for 1,996 yards running and throwing his senior season at Harrison High in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Spurrier also said he would begin paring down the four-way competition to better prepare the starter and prime backup for when the Gamecocks open against the Tar Heels at the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium.
Apparently, the process of finding a starting quarterback has taken longer than planned by Spurrier.
He had complained a week ago the passers took too long to release the ball, leading to sacks, overthrows and interceptions. Spurrier liked what he saw this time around.
“Most of the time, they took the ball and threw it in there,” he said. “Most of the time, our guys caught it. We had a couple of drops and missed a couple of open guys. But overall, I think they showed a lot of improvement.”
Wilds, a fifth-year senior, thought it was obvious why the offense perked up: “We ran the ball,” he said, smiling.
Wilds finished with 86 yards on four rushes, including his long burst through the middle of the line for the touchdown. He said the experience on the offensive line combined with a group of proven running backs like himself, senior Shon Carson and sophomore David Williams means South Carolina can run the ball effectively throughout a game.
Carson and Williams each had touchdown runs in the scrimmage.
“That’s a key for success, in my book,” he said.
Still, someone has to play quarterback. Spurrier said joking he might put all four of his passers out there on the first play, just to confuse everybody. It’s no joke that star receiver Pharoh Cooper came to camp as the South Carolina with the most career passing yards in college.
“It would be easy for all of us to say, ‘Hey, this is the guy and let’s go,’” Spurrier said. “But then you’ve got to be fair and competing. But we’ll know something maybe the middle of this coming week.”