In need of ‘a spark on offense,’ Gamecocks open competition for starting QB job

Muschamp: Decision on starting QB for Carolina vs. Ole Miss could be made as late as pre-game warmup

In need of ‘a spark on offense,’ Gamecocks open competition for starting QB job
South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty warms up before the Texas A&M game on Saturday Nov. 7, 2020 in Columbia, S.C. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA) (Source: Sideline Carolina)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With South Carolina needing a spark on offense, Will Muschamp announced that the starting quarterback job is once again up for grabs.

Previously, the Gamecocks looked to graduate transfer Collin Hill to lead the offense to prominence this season. However, the former Dorman product has struggled in Carolina’s passing game. Hill was 8-of-21 passing for 66 yards and two interceptions in the Gamecocks' 48-3 home loss to Texas A&M. This season, Hill has completed just shy of 59% of his passes while throwing for 1,142 yards, five touchdowns, and five interceptions.

However, at 2-4, the Gamecocks are hoping to see improvement at that position.

“Both quarterbacks, Collin and Ryan, got equal reps,” Muschamp explained during his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “We have a package for Luke [Doty], but with Collin and Ryan being so similar skill-set-wise, both guys did a good job today. We do not have a timetable on when we could make that decision. It could be up to pre-game warmup to see who’s spinning it best in pregame. So, we’ll go from there.”

Muschamp said the coaching staff evaluates the quarterbacks' ability to make the best decisions at the line of scrimmage as well as completion percentage, pass accuracy among other factors that are tested throughout the week at practice.

Hilinski entered Saturday night’s game against the Aggies and was 4-of-6 passing for 34 yards. Last year, Hilinski filled in for an injured Jake Bentley and completed 58% of his passes and threw for 11 touchdowns and five interceptions as a freshman.

With Carolina desperately needing a win this week, Muschamp hopes getting a jolt at the quarterback position will help the offense as a whole.

“I think that we’ve been productive earlier in the year,” Muschamp said. “We had more than 150 yards earlier in the year in a ball game and I think we lacked a spark on Saturday to get things going and, sometimes, the changeup is at that position. That position can affect more people than any other position on the offensive side of the ball with the way we’re structured offensively.”

Just as it did during the preseason, the competition at the quarterback position has been highly contested, according to Muschamp, and the response from the players in the group has been positive.

“We try to create a competitive atmosphere all the time and I know [offensive coordinator] Mike [Bobo] does a great job of pushing that position and having those guys be game ready in all situations,” Muschamp said. "Luke -- maybe for the last month or month and a half, maybe six weeks -- has been getting the lion’s share of reps at quarterback in his package and the things that we do to try to bring that along and we’ll continue to do so. Ryan and Collin have been getting the reps in what you’d say is our mainstay offense in what we do.

“It’s been a very competitive room on and off the field, in my opinion. Both guys, I think, are great for each other. Both guys interact very well together. Both guys share information very well together. Both guys want South Carolina to be successful and win. Both guys want to be the starting quarterback. Only one guy can play, but both guys are talented and we can win with both.”

While the quarterback position has been a focal point for Carolina, Muschamp believes it’ll take more players stepping up on offense to see the success they’re hoping for.

“We need to play better around that position,” he said. “We need to have more people step up at the wide-out position outside of Shi Smith. We need to continue to take advantage of the tight end position. We need to run the ball better. There’s a lot of things, but we need a spark on offense. We averaged eight yards a play against LSU. We’ve done some good things offensively, but we needed a spark and, moving forward, hopefully, competition provides that spark.”

South Carolina plays at Ole Miss on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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