South Carolina football: how Zeb Noland earned QB1 status

Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland fires a pass against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2018, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.180909 Cyhawk
Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland fires a pass against Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2018, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.180909 Cyhawk /

South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer has named his starting quarterback for game one of the 2021 season, and it’s not the name that most expected when the offseason began.

With projected starter Luke Doty sidelined with a foot injury, the Gamecocks will call upon  graduate assistant turned signal caller Zeb Noland to lead the charge against Eastern Illinois. Noland was a part of the coaching staff just a few short weeks ago, but he now finds himself at the helm of his first SEC matchup.

Noland beat out transfer Jason Brown and freshman Colten Gauthier to earn the start. While Noland just joined the Gamecocks’ roster, he’s played college football a heck of a lot more recently than the other candidates in the quarterback room.

Noland was with North Dakota State for the 2020 season, which actually took place in the Spring of 2021. Brown didn’t play at all last year with St. Francis University cancelling its season. Gauthier was playing high school ball last Fall.

Prior to his stint with the Bison, Noland played under Matt Campbell at Iowa State, going 2-3 in five starts. He appeared in nine games over two seasons in Ames, finishing his career with the Cyclones with a 60% completion rate, 1,255 yards, and six touchdowns.

How Noland won the South Carolina football job

Noland wasn’t on the roster to start the month of August, but he was with the team, learning the playbook as a graduate assistant on the coaching staff. So while he wasn’t necessarily repping with the rest of the quarterback room, he wasn’t coming in green, either.

His experience at two major football programs also helped, as did his composure and knowledge of the offense. Coach Beamer went on to say in this week’s press conference that Noland won’t be expected to win the game, but rather to manage the offensive unit. He was the top option due to his ability to protect the football and make the smart decision, again, going back to his experience under center in the past.

Noland threw just two interceptions in 176 attempts at Iowa State, and was mobile enough to avoid being sacked on a consistent basis. With Brown and Gauthier still being relatively inexperienced, especially when it comes to Power Five football, going with Noland seems to be the smart choice.

That’s not to say that those reserves won’t get their shots, too. The Gamecocks plan to give everyone an opportunity in what should be a tune-up game to start the season. The offense will likely remain relatively vanilla in regards to play calling, with the expectation of the unit relying more heavily on the potent rushing attack.

Noland will limit opportunities for his opposition in the turnover department, and will check down rather than forcing passes. Essentially, he’s landed the job because he’s the best option for not throwing the game away.

The Gamecocks will kick off the 2021 season at 7 PM in Williams-Brice Stadium this Saturday. The game will air on SEC Network, or you can stream live on Fubo TV.