South Carolina's Mitch will have to play better against Kentucky
An injury could be just the cover South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier needs to make a quarterback change should sophomore Connor Mitch get off to another slow start.
Mitch suffered a hip pointer in the Gamecocks’ 17-13 decision over North Carolina last Thursday. The painful injury suffered in his first career start likely played a role in his subpar 9-for-22 passing effort that resulted in just 122 yards.
“Yeah, we are worried a little, and we are worried about trying to get somebody open and throwing the ball successfully,” Spurrier said, according to The State. “Didn’t do it very well the other night. Had a few plays that hit sort of like you draw them up, but not many. It was a tough night for us offensively.”
Mitch did not practice on Monday, but is expected to be ready for his team’s SEC opener against visiting Kentucky on Saturday.
He’ll probably have to get off to a fast start and do a much better overall job if he wants to avoid being yanked by Spurrier in favor of junior Perry Orth.
Spurrier had said prior to naming Mitch his starter in late August that the competition for the chance to succeed Dylan Thompson had been a close one. Thompson, whose 3,564 yards passing set a new South Carolina single-season record, went undrafted, but landed in the NFL when the San Francisco 49ers signed him to their practice squad.
Mitch has done little to this point to make an impression on Gamecocks fans.
Time might be running short.
The team snapped the ball to four different “quarterbacks” on Saturday, including Mitch, Orth, All-SEC receiver candidate Pharoh Cooper and running back Brandon Wilds. But direct snaps and Wildcat formations are not a sustainable way to propel a strong offense in 2015, not without transcendent talent (which Cooper may be).
And despite two end zone interceptions by Skai Moore, South Carolina’s defense still gave up chunks of yards at times Thursday. So Spurrier needs a quarterback that he can trust to get the offense into the 20s or even the 30s with regularity against good SEC defenses.
Under as much pressure as he’s been since arriving in Columbia, S.C., and as competitive as Spurrier is, the elements are in place for a quick hook on Mitch. But is Orth, a former walk-on, possibly better? And is Spurrier just biding time until true freshman Lorenzo Nunez turns from a runner to a thrower, or until Brandon McIlwain arrives in the class of 2016?
South Carolina enters Saturday’s game against Kentucky as better than a touchdown favorite. That won’t happen often for the Gamecocks in the SEC this year. So how Spurrier handles the quarterbacks, and how Mitch performs, will be telling.