The long, beleaguered road to finding a solution at quarterback in Columbia rolls on into 2021.
While South Carolina has had spurts of solid play under center since Jake Bentley departed the program, it’s been nearly a decade since Connor Shaw, Stephen Garcia and Dylan Thompson shined as Gamecock signal-callers.
This year, it will likely fall on redshirt freshman Luke Doty to take the reins at a position that’s held USC back in recent years.
“Luke’s really taken on a leadership role,” head coach Shane Beamer said last week. “He’s got to be that guy for us. Players on our team respect him already and he’s embraced that and really worked on that role.”
Gamecock quarterbacks: What we know
Following an open competition this spring, Doty ran away with the starting job.
Beamer declared him the starter going forward after the Garnet and Black spring game and nothing appears to have changed.
Rated a four-star prospect and one of the top-100 recruits in the 2020 class, Doty has shown the versatility and running ability that made him among the best dual-threat quarterbacks in his grade over the final three games of the 2020 season.
Now taking on the starting role, Doty will be asked to take a step forward in the passing game and improve on his 60.5% completion percentage on 43 of 71 throws a season ago.
“I know there’s a lot of stuff for me personally to get better at, just to improve myself going into the summer and then going into the fall once we get into camp,” Doty said in April. “I really don’t consider whether (I’m) starting or not. It’s really about coming into work every single day with the desire to get better and to make everyone around me better, whether that be me, Jason (Brown), Colten (Gauthier), Connor (Jordan), whoever that is.”
Gamecock quarterbacks: What’s undecided
While Doty should handle the starting job, there’s legitimate competition brewing behind the former Myrtle Beach High School star as to who will back him up.
Junior transfer Jason Brown has 18 college appearances under his belt from his time at FCS program St. Francis (Pennsylvania). Brown did miss a chunk of the spring due to an undisclosed illness, but flashed his potential in the spring game.
During red zone drills, he connected with former St. Francis teammate E.J. Jenkins on a pair of touchdown passes with the flair and touch one would expect from a player as seasoned as he is.
”Man, Jason had himself a day,” Doty said after the spring game. “And that was really awesome to see, ‘cause he’s a guy that just comes in every single day and just works.”
But for as good as Brown was in the annual scrimmage, big-armed freshman Colten Gauthier has thrust himself into the backup discussion.
Gauthier arrived in Columbia as an early enrollee in January. The former three-star prospect was 156 of 300 passing for 2,052 yards with 22 touchdowns his senior year at Hebron Christian Academy in Dacula, Georgia. His arm talent and progression through the playbook have been enough to give him a chance at backing up Doty.
During spring practices, Gauthier spent the bulk of the practice time that was open to reporters taking second-team reps, though it’s unclear whether that’s changed over the summer.
Projected USC QB depth chart
Starter — Luke Doty
Backup — Jason Brown
Third-string — Colten Gauthier
Fourth-string — Connor Jordan