The Head Ball Coach is entering his 10th season in Columbia and, for one of the few times in his tenure, there is no quarterback controversy. Dylan Thompson is the undisputed starter and will have the keys to the offense in 2014.
Since Steve Spurrier came to South Carolina, the Gamecocks have had 21 different players complete passes. Here’s our countdown of the best Gamecock passers during the Steve Spurrier Era.
21. Josh Brown (2001-05)
Brown completed one pass for negative-four yards in his Gamecock career. Of course, Brown was a punter.
20. Cade Thompson (2005-06)
Thompson complete one pass for one yard before moving on to a successful career at Tennessee-Martin.
19. Perry Orth (2013-current)
Orth currently owns a 100% completion percentage after going 1-for-1 for 5 yards against Coastal Carolina.
18. Brendan Nosovitch (2012-current)
Nosovitch also completed all of his passes against Coastal Carolina and has a rushing TD against Arkansas.
17. Austin Hails (2011-current)
Hails threw for 14 yards against the Chanticleers, his first game action in three seasons.
16. Ace Sanders (2010-12)
Sanders’ two career completions, one against Florida State and one against East Carolina both went for TDs.
15. Andrew Clifford (2009-2012)
Clifford completed three passes in his Gamecock career, including a seven-yard score against Kentucky.
14. Pharoh Cooper (2013-current)
The freshman’s biggest impact came in the kick return game, but Cooper also saw time at quarterback last season. His 26-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Wilds against Clemson sealed the win for South Carolina.
13. Kenny McKinley (2005-08)
While setting school records for receptions and receiving yards, the former high school quarterback also took snaps for the Gamecocks. He threw two touchdowns on his only two career completions.
12. Bruce Ellington (2011-13)
The two-sport start will always be remembered as the man behind center when Marcus Lattimore was injured against Mississippi State, but Ellington completed four passes, including a TD to Connor Shaw.
11. Reid McCollum (2008-09)
In only one year of action, McCollum completed four of six passes, including three against South Carolina State. McCollum’s lone touchdown pass went to Alshon Jeffrey, the first touchdown of Jeffrey’s career.
10. Stephon Gilmore (2009-11)
A top-10 draft pick at cornerback in 2012, Gilmore returned to his high school roots on occasion during his Gamecock career. His two career completions came against Clemson and Florida State, for 39 and 29 yards.
9. Seth Strickland (2009-12)
Most known for his duties as a holder, Strickland also made the most of his time at quarterback. He threw a touchdown against Troy in 2010 and a 51-yard score against East Carolina in his final season.
8. Antonio Heffner (2004-05)
He has the misfortune of starting in Steve Spurrier’s worst SEC loss ever, but Heffner was a capable backup during his Gamecock career. In his one season of action, he went 22-of-33 for 236 yards and two TDs.
7. Tommy Beecher (2005-08)
Beecher had a decent career at South Carolina, but, unfortunately, he will always be known for his first career start. After battling for the starting job with Chris Smelley, Beecher was named the starter in South Carolina’s 2008 opener against NC State. He threw four interceptions, was knocked out of the game, and wound up transferring after the season.
6. Syvelle Newton (2003-06)
Newton did everything but sell popcorn during his time with the Gamecocks. One of the most versatile athletes in South Carolina history, Newton lined up at quarterback, wide receiver, safety and running back during his carer. He passed for over 1,000 yards in 2004 and 2006, while throwing for 20 touchdowns in his career.
5. Dylan Thompson (2010-current)
Thompson heads into his redshirt senior season with experience as a starter. The Boiling Springs native is 3-0 as a starter and has thrown for three touchdowns in two of his three career starts. In three seasons, most of them spent as a backup to Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw, Thompson has thrown for 1,827 yards with 14 touchdowns.
4. Chris Smelley (2006-08)
Smelley started six games in 2007, including the season opener, then won the starting job with his performance off the bench in South Carolina’s 2008 season opener, going 5-for-5 for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He would go 9-6 as the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks before transferring to Alabama to play baseball.
3. Blake Mitchell (2003-07)
Mitchell opened the Spurrier Era with a 330-yard performance against Central Florida in Spurrier’s first game in Columbia. Mitchell is the second-most accurate passer in school history and was the first Gamecock quarterback to ever beat Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson in his career. He threw 38 touchdowns in his career, the fifth-most in Gamecock history.
2. Stephen Garcia (2007-11)
Garcia was, despite all of his issues, one of the best quarterbacks to ever put on a Gamecock uniform. Even though he was dismissed from the program midway through the 2011 season, Garcia ended his career in the top-five in career pass attempts, pass completions, completion percentage, and passing touchdowns.
1. Connor Shaw (2010-13)
Winningest quarterback in school history. Undefeated as a starter at Williams-Brice Stadium. The first player in school history with over 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. Fourth all-time in school history in career passing yards. Holds the school record for career completion percentage. Fifth in program history in pass completions. Responsible for the most touchdowns in Gamecock history. There is no denying Connor Shaw’s place, not only in the Spurrier Era, but in South Carolina quarterback history.