UGA, South Carolina open camp with QB question marks

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For the past few years, both Georgia and South Carolina had a firm grasp on just who would be their starting quarterback entering summer camp.  This time around, though, both are entering somewhat unfamiliar territory.

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks opened Summer Camp 2015 Tuesday, with the former commencing a three-man quarterback competition and the latter a four-man.  Mark Richt might have a bit of an advantage on his counterpart in Columbia, though, as the UGA head coach at least has a quarterback who has started a game at this level of football.

Greyson Lambert transferred to UGA earlier this offseason from Virginia, where he started nine of 12 games in 2014.  While Lambert may have an edge in experience, his play was spotty at best for the Cavaliers — 11 interceptions, 10 touchdowns — leading some (most?) observers to tap Brice Ramsey as the front-runner, with the graduate transfer with two years of eligibility potentially battling Faton Bauta for the backup spot.

For now, though, all three of the potential starters are starting dead-even in the eyes of the coaching staff — and that’s expected to remain that way for the foreseeable future, at least until one grabs the job and runs away with it.

“We’re going to rotate the top three guys, the three scholarship quarterbacks,” Richt said in quotes distributed by the school. “We’re going to rotate them one guy with the first unit, one guy with the second unit, one guy with the third unit, rotating it around on a day‑to‑day basis until we think it should stop.

“[The competition] could go all the way to the first game. At some point we may drop it to a two‑man race. It’s just hard to say how it’s going to go. But that’s our starting point.”

As for Steve Spurrier, he’s in the early stages of sifting through his four-horse race, a field that includes Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez, Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia.  That foursome has combined to attempt nine collegiate passes, with Mitch responsible for six of them as Dylan Thompson‘s primary backup last season and Orth the other three.

Quarterback, though, is just one position of interest to the Ol’ Ball Coach.

“The quarterback battle is going on,” said Spurrier. “Like I told them, we’re charting everything. A lot of jobs are up for grabs. We had two huddles – two offenses and two defenses going rapid fire. Hopefully we’ll be doing that all week. We had more guys getting snaps. We didn’t have a lot of “watchers” here today.”

Both Richt and Spurrier would like a decision sooner rather than later to give the starter extended time working with the first-team offense ahead of their respective openers, but neither will rush a decision just for the sake of making one. At least as far as Richt is concerned, though, decision-making will play a key role in who emerges as the starter when the trigger on a decision is pulled.

“We’re obviously talking to them about the things that are important, about quarterback play. We’re not necessarily saying, this is what you have to do to win the job, per se, but this is what you have to do to become the best quarterback you can be,” Richt explained. “That’s the goal for everybody: to be the best quarterback, linebacker, safety, running back, whatever it is. We’re all trying to perfect our trade, so to speak. We talk about in terms of perfecting your trade.

“The more you know about your position, the more you are prepared, the faster you can play, and you’ll make better decisions as a quarterback if you get in a good habit of how you think, how you progress through your reads. Even your fundamentals, the balance that you have when you throw the football, all those things together help you become the best you can be. That’s what we’re hoping for for everybody.”

USC will open the season Thursday, Sept, 3, against North Carolina in Charlotte, while UGA opens two days later at home against Louisiana-Monroe.  Two weeks later, the Bulldogs will host the Gamecocks in Athens in a key SEC East clash.

Marcus Mariota headlines NFF Hampshire Honor Society list

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In yet another case of Marcus Mariota being a disgustingly wonderful human being, the former Oregon quarterback took home one more honor the day before he officially leaves college football and joins the NFL.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner led a list of 817 players on the National Football Foundation’s Hampshire Honor Society list for 2015 – basically the Dean’s List for college football at large.

“The Hampshire Honor Society plays an important role in highlighting that college football players clearly play a leadership role in the classroom as well as on the playing field,” said NFF president and CEO Steve Hatchell. “We congratulate each of these young men for their commitment to excellence.”

To join the Hampshire Honor Society a player must carry a 3.2 grade-point average throughout their college career, be a starter or significant contributor in his final year of eligibility and meet all NCAA or NAIA eligibility requirements.

“We have honored nearly 6,000 student-athletes in the last nine years thanks to Jon Hanson’s generosity,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “We are grateful for his passionate belief in the scholar-athlete ideal, and the Hampshire Honor Society allows us to showcase the names of tomorrow’s leaders while inspiring future generations to follow in their footsteps.”

Among the other big names joining Mariota on the list (which can be seen here in full) are former Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, former Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, former South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson and former Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton.

Oh, and did we mention Mariota is establishing a four-year scholarship at his former high school in Honolulu? This guy is just the worst.

Gamecock QBs struggle as competition’s pared by one

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We don’t know quite yet just who will trigger South Carolina’s offense, but we do know who it won’t be.

Earlier this week, USC officials confirmed that Brendan Nosovitch has asked for, and been granted a release from, his Gamecock scholarship. The move comes a short time after he was listed fourth on the team’s spring depth chart.

It also comes roughly eight months after Nosovitch had considered transferring from the football program, but ultimately opted to stay with the Gamecocks.

Nosovitch was a three-star member of USC’s 2012 recruiting class who has attempted two passes in his career, with both of those coming in 2013. In 2014, he moved from QB to tight end, although he mainly saw action on special teams.  The Pennsylvania native switched back to quarterback to start the spring, although he lagged behind the other three in a competition that’s expected to extend into summer camp.

The trio of remaining contenders vying to replace Dylan Thompson under center are redshirt sophomore Connor Mitch, the presumptive favorite, redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia and redshirt junior Perry Orth.  Those players struggled mightily in a scrimmage Saturday, completing a combined 10-of-22 passes for 121 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.

Not surprisingly, the Ol’ Ball Coach didn’t mince many words when summing up that subpar effort.

“The quarterbacks, none of them shined. It was not encouraging on the offensive side. … Connor Mitch held the ball too much at times and threw late at times, as did all of them,” head coach Steve Spurrier said in quotes distributed by the team. “But the protection probably wasn’t all that super at times either. Hopefully we can learn from it. The offense did a lot better [Friday] than they did [Saturday], but the defense did better than they did [Friday]. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of improvement to do.”

Lorenzo Nunez will enter the quarterback fray this summer as a true freshman. A four-star member of the Gamecocks’ 2015 recruiting class, Nunez was rated as the No. 16 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Georgia by Rivals.com.

Gamecocks unlikely to name starting QB exiting spring

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If you’re a South Carolina fan looking for a quick answer to the question of who will replace Dylan Thompson at quarterback, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Following the fifth of the Gamecocks’ 15 spring practice sessions Tuesday, head coach Steve Spurrier was asked about the current state of the competition between redshirt sophomore Connor Mitch (pictured), the presumptive favorite, redshirt junior Brendan Nosovitch, redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia and redshirt junior Perry Orth. Not surprisingly, the Ol’ Ball Coach indicated that a decision on a starter isn’t even remotely imminent.

“We’re all practicing right now,” Spurrier said of the position. “We won’t determine who’s going to start next year until probably preseason practice (in the fall).”

You could expect Spurrier to pull the trigger on a decision at a couple of weeks ahead of the Sept. 3 opener against North Carolina, perhaps in mid-August, although a D-Day is far from set in stone.

Mitch, a four-star 2013 signee, served as Thompson’s primary backup in 2014, although wide receiver Pharoah Cooper attempted more passes (eight) than did Mitch (six). Still, he’s widely considered the front-runner at this early stage of the battle, and will get a lion’s share of the first-team reps this spring, Spurrier acknowledged.

Scarnecchia was a three-star prospect who took a redshirt his true freshman season last year.

A walk-on, Orth actually moved to No. 2 in the Gamecock quarterback pecking order last spring before being leapfrogged by Mitch. He attempted two passes last season, the first attempts of his career.

Nosovitch was a three-star member of USC’s 2012 recruiting class who has attempted two passes in his career, with both of those coming in 2013. In 2014, he moved from QB to tight end, although he mainly saw action on special teams.

Interestingly, in the quotes distributed by the school, Nosovitch, who contemplated a transfer last August, was the only player mentioned by name by Spurrier, who raved about the extra dimension he brings to the position — a skillset that could put the player in line for some type of package regardless of who’s named the starter.

“Nosovitch is an excellent play-action quarterback who can run the option and all that kind of stuff,” said Spurrier. “Maybe there’s a spot for him to play a bit next year also. He’s more of a combination guy, whereas the other three quarterbacks are not considered outstanding runners. There’s a spot for that running quarterback as we all know.”

Speaking of that type of quarterback, Lorenzo Nunez will enter the fray this summer. A four-star member of the Gamecocks’ 2015 recruiting class, Nunez was rated as the No. 16 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 26 player at any position in the state of Georgia.

While it’s unlikely he’d win the starting job right out of the gate, his dual-threat capabilities could certainly make things interesting in Columbia come August.

One final note on USC’s offense: Spurrier confirmed that he will indeed be in charge of calling plays in 2015 after “experimenting” with allowing others to handle that job on a (very) part-time basis in 2014.

“I did delegate at times last year, but I usually took over before the game was over,” Spurrier explained. “I certainly plan on doing it. I’ll be ready to do it and we’ll go from there.”

Offenses struggle in Shrine Game as USF kicker wins MVP

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If you thought yesterday was the first Saturday without college football since August, then you were not paying attention to the college football all-star schedule. The 90th East-West Shrine Game was played in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the East team winning by a score of 19-3. As the score might suggest, there was not a whole lot to be seen in this one, but it served as an opportunity for some NFL-hopefuls to show what they can do to NFL Scouts.

USF kicker Marvin Kloss won game MVP honors with his display of field goal kicking. Kloss notched field goals from 47 yards, 39 yards, 30 yards and a short 19-yard field goal to lead the way for the East team’s victory.

Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason was the most consistent of the quarterbacks in the game, completing seven of eight passes for 71 yards for the East. Duke’s Anthony Boone completed four of his eight passes for 49 yards and Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke struggled with just two completions out of nine passes and an interception. Louisville running back Dominique Brown scored the game’s only touchdown late in the fourth quarter and he was the game’s leading rusher with 70 yards.

Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly was the leading passer for the West, completing seven of 13 passes for 65 yards. Kelly also led the West in rushing with 23 yards. Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson combined to complete three of 12 passes for 10 yards. Both Fajardo and Thompson were intercepted as well, with each intercepted by FAU safety Damian Parms. The West offense was held to just 93 yards of offense, and completed just three of 133 third-down conversion attempts.

The offenses for both teams clearly struggled, which helped the defenses look even better in the all-star game. Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith came away as one fo the more impressive defensive standouts in the game with his ability to bring pressure on West quarterbacks.

One of the most dazzling plays in the game may have been pulled off by Colorado punter Darragh O’Neill. O’Neill leaped and snagged with one hand a high snap in the back of his end zone before getting off a punt. It was quite the effort, and a cause for celebration for punters everywhere watching.

With the Shrine Game now in the books, as well as the NFLPA Bowl that was played at the same time out west, the focus now shifts to the Senior Bowl this week. The Senior Bowl is the top-level college all-star game with the best of the best, so the level of play should be a little more entertaining that what the Shrine Game had to offer this season. The Senior Bowl will be played Saturday in Mobile, Alabama.