Luke Doty skipped across the front left pylon of the north end zone at Williams-Brice Stadium as a smile crossed his face.
Doty’s touchdown was largely meaningless in the grand scheme of South Carolina’s 50-10 win over S.C. State. But the movement, the running ability, the effort — albeit only shown in garbage time this year — offer reminders of why the Myrtle Beach High product entered last year as the Gamecocks’ expected starting quarterback.
“Luke’s one of our top two quarterbacks right now,” head coach Shane Beamer said Tuesday. “So we’re continuing to try and get him ready to play.”
That Doty has been mostly reserved to mop-up duty was to be expected in 2022. South Carolina brought in Spencer Rattler to play — and play a lot.
Rattler was briefly pushed by Doty during the spring, but there was always the expectation the Oklahoma import would settle in as the starting quarterback this fall. That’s afforded Doty a chance to learn behind an experienced veteran player for, really, the first full season in his college career.
Those around the program indicate that’s made a difference for the third-year signal-caller. It’s given Doty a chance to fully recoup from the foot injury that limited his availability in 2021 without the pressure of returning as a starter. It’s also allowed him a full offseason to grow and develop, a crucial step for a player that, despite being a top-100 recruit per 247Sports, didn’t fully commit to playing quarterback until his junior year of high school.
“Watching (Rattler) and the way that he does things, that’s helped me a lot, too,” Doty said in March. “Obviously, he is an older guy and he’s got a lot more experience than me. It’s been fun to have him and really just continue to build a relationship with him.”
“He’s like the perfect teammate,” Rattler added during South Carolina’s in-house media day in August. “You see a great energy all the time, from the start to end of practice. He’s being himself, having fun. That’s what he’s about.”
Doty’s opportunities behind Rattler have been limited but effective. He’s completed 10 of his 14 pass attempts for 146 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Doty added another 80 yards and a score on 18 touches as a runner.
The touchdown scamper against S.C. State was a glimpse at the dual-threat ability recruiting services touted during his time as a prep star.
His 52-yard touchdown pass to Corey Rucker against Charlotte, too, was a look at his ability to scan a defense and hit a streaking receiver in stride over a defender.
It hasn’t all been perfect, sure. Beamer bemoaned Doty’s interception late in the Charlotte win and noted he didn’t like how the squad finished the contest top to bottom. Still, Doty looks to be moving with more ease and comfort than he did a year ago.
“There’s always pressure on all of us,” offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said on Wednesday. “But without the pressure of having to be the starting quarterback, going through game plans and watching Spencer talk with me and his comfort level, you can see when he goes out there it’s a totally different kid.”
Doty has played in four of South Carolina’s five games so far this season. Should he make at least one more appearance, he’d surpass the four-game threshold the NCAA maintains in order to redshirt and save a year of eligibility.
Beamer and Satterfield aren’t concerned with that, they say, insisting Doty is too talented a player to leave on the sidelines. Don’t be surprised, they said, if he factors into a gameplan at some point this year.
“Our plan is full speed ahead with him from (a redshirt) standpoint,” Beamer said. “Now, whether we have packages with Luke to get him in the game, or because he’s shown this year that he’s really a weapon with his feet as well — that’s to be determined.”
In a perfect world, Doty’s future snaps this fall will entirely fall in garbage time as Rattler holds down the fort as the starter in 2022. But with the season almost half over and eyes always glancing toward the future, there’s reason for optimism.
Doty smirked as he raced into the end zone on Saturday. Gamecocks fans should also be smiling. In theory, that’s their future.