In-depth: Quarterbacks, expectations, breakout players
GamecockCentral.com's team breaks down four key questions about the 2016 version of Carolina football in advance of the season opener against Vanderbilt one week from today.
The quarterback situation has been followed closely by everyone since fall practice started. What are your thoughts on where things stand with kickoff getting closer? Could we see three different quarterbacks start a game this year?
CHRIS CLARK: Back in the spring my full expectation was that a true freshman would be the starter at quarterback for the Gamecocks this season, even when Jake Bentley was not even on campus yet. As time went, the race between Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth remained tight and Orth's experience advantage and leadership capabilities continued to show through. Those factors are still why the arrow points in the direction of him getting the nod to start against Vanderbilt.
To some degree, how he performs in his chances should dictate just how much playing time he ultimately does get against the Commodores and the rest of this season. With two other quarterbacks that have never taken a college snap and three of the first four games on the road, the approach makes sense should USC ultimately take it. McIlwain would be a safer bet to play in game one given that he's ahead of the curve from enrolling in January. Bentley is the most gifted natural passer on the roster, and it would be no surprise to see him on the field at some point this season. Injuries or ineffectiveness at a position can always lead to a new starter, and that is why one cannot rule out three different starters this season. Following who plays, and when, will be one of the more fascinating subplots this season.
JOSH LOW: It seems like things are very close with Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain right now with only a week until kickoff between Vanderbilt. The safe bet is for Orth to be the starter for Vanderbilt with it being a road game and the experience that he has from last season. He played in some big time environments last year. Orth is not the quarterback on the roster that has the most upside but he is probably the safest pick with the opening game being on the road. I would say it is likely that another quarterback gets in the game against Vanderbilt and my prediction would be McIlwain as things stand right now.
Jake Bentley has had a good fall camp and that brings the question on whether South Carolina will start three different quarterbacks this year. I would be shocked if South Carolina doesn’t start two different quarterbacks this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Orth, McIlwain, and Bentley all get a start this season. The reality of the situation is that McIlwain and Bentley are the future for South Carolina and this will probably be a good year to get them as much experience as possible. The other reality is that Vanderbilt is a huge game for the Gamecocks to open the season and they need experience on the road - that is Orth.
WES MITCHELL: Obviously we're without the benefit of actually getting to watch practice, but I'm going to stick with my belief that Perry Orth is the most likely starter for Game 1, though one of the freshmen will almost certainly play in that game as well. As for the position as a whole, I take Muschamp at his word when he says that he feels good about the position. All three of the quarterbacks in the running for the position appear to have improved as fall practice has progressed and each brings something different to the table. While I think Orth starts the season, one of the freshmen will ultimately take over, in my opinion. And I wouldn't be shocked at all if three different quarterbacks took a snap.
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