South Carolina football: The next step in Luke Doty's development comes against a very familiar (and daunting) opponent
As Luke Doty and the South Carolina coaching staff evaluate what the freshman can do next, with a respected Georgia defense coming to town, the next coming of Connor Shaw may be in for a little bit of seasoning. Sliding, for starters, is needed immediately.
“The game is a lot faster than high school, and it’s definitely something I’m going to have to keep working at and getting used to it,” Doty said after the loss to Missouri. “I had a lot of fun with my guys, and we’re going to find a way to get a win.”
His interim coach and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Doty is in for a teaching opportunity about SEC defenses.
“When he sees himself on tape, he’ll be able to understand when he needs to take care of his body a little bit more,” Bobo said on the Sunday media teleconference, per SportsTalkSC. “Understand where the chains are and a lot of that has to do with getting vertical sometimes, and trying to make too much when you break the line of scrimmage, and the fastest way to the end zone is north and south and sometimes you get away with doing that stuff at another level and I think he’ll learn from it.”
Doty combined for 189 yards of offense (130 passing, 59 rushing) as he played every offensive possession of the second half, and pulled the Gamcocks within a final scoring drive of tying the game against Missouri.
“I thought Luke played his tail off tonight,” offensive lineman Sadarius Hutcherson said. “You can’t ask too much more than what he did. I’m proud of him. I thought we all played pretty good around him, and we have to build off of this.”
It was the first extended time on the field for Doty, but just as he gets acclimated with the speed of the SEC, opposing defenses, conversely, are more familiar with him.
That’s why Bobo needs to come up with another wrinkle to give the Gamecocks a spark as Doty offered the best upgrade of the season.
“We’ve got a plan, but I haven’t met with the quarterbacks yet, so I don’t want to talk about it until I talk with the kids,” Bobo said.
For his part, Doty said he hasn’t earned anything yet in terms of a starting role.
“Everybody on the team’s been fighting,” Doty said. “Everybody believes in each other and I know the guys around me believe in me. So next week just comes down to everybody doing their job, and me included. I have to do my job, and make sure I can build trust in everyone around me and they know that I’ll do mine.”
Doty has already drawn comparisons with his new position coach, Shaw, who played with a similar running style as Doty and is in the conversation for best Gamecock QBs of all time.
“He brought a lot of positive energy to practice this week, and I really think that helped,” Doty said. “He did the same on the sideline tonight. Especially with me coming off the field, he’d be right there, talking me through things and just getting me ready to go out for the next play. I definitely enjoyed having him there and look forward to getting back at it next week.”
This is a different week on a couple of fronts. It’s a week after the Will Muschamp firing and the fallout has largely settled as much as it will until the end of the season. The opt-outs have stopped, for one, and Bobo is more familiar with his head coaching responsibilities like media availabilities. But it’s also a bit of a reunion for Bobo against his alma mater, and where he played and coached for much of his career.
Bobo said he still texts with Georgia coach Kirby Smart on a daily basis, and they’ve been friends since they played together for 2 seasons at Georgia. They’ve vacationed together, and likely would have this year if not for the pandemic because Bobo said they discussed it when he moved from Colorado State to South Carolina.
“I’m not really concerned that it’s Georgia, and the uniform and that I played there, it’s their personnel and realizing that we have a challenge and trying to get our guys ready to play the game,” Bobo said. “My kids, they think it’s cool, but I’m looking at the tape right now and trying to figure out how we’re going to get a first down.”
Bobo’s not the only former player or assistant on the South Carolina staff with ties to Georgia. Wide receivers coach Joe Cox is a former Bulldogs quarterback, and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker held the same position in Athens under Mark Richt.
But they’re all behind the latest freshman sensation for the Gamecocks. And it doesn’t take a long memory to think back to Ryan Hilinski throwing for 300 yards against Alabama last year, and Collin Hill making his debut against Tennessee with 300 yards. It’s the next step that the program needs, and that starts now for Doty.