Rating the QB Class

Going into the heart of recruiting season, QB was not a position of need for the Gamecocks. After all, we had two QBs--Stephen Garcia and Chris Smelley--that had been highly recruited out of high school, that had significant playing experience, and had three and two years of eligibility remaining, respectively. Although neither had distinguished himself over 2008, both seemed to have potential and, with a new offensive coaching staff, there was hope that one might stand out in spring training and lead us to glory next fall. The plan was for the two to battle it out for the starting job in 2009, with the loser taking the role of capable, experienced backup. When you throw young gunslingers Aramis Hillary and Reid McCollum into the mix, there was no need to sign a new QB this year.

However, we had to scrap that plan when Chris Smelley decided to transfer to Alabama to play baseball. All of the sudden, we only had three scholarship quarterbacks, and only Garcia had playing experience. We needed another signal caller on the roster, both because we need depth in case of injury and because, despite his talent, Garcia has yet to prove himself to be the kind of quarterback that can lead a great offense and, therefore, we need options in case Garcia doesn't produce.

Unfortunately, by the time we knew that we needed a quarterback, there were no legitimate blue-chip tagets left on the board. There was, however, one Andrew Clifford, a three-star QB out of Tampa. Clifford was not recruited by any big-name schools. However, Spurrier has spoken highly of Clifford, saying that he possesses a strong arm, good accuracy, and good decision-making skills. Spurrier, though, has openly admitted that in saying that, he means in comparison to the other players left on the board. Clifford looks like a solid player, but no one is comparing him to Matt Barkley.

It's certainly worth mentioning that many teams have gotten better production out of their two- and three-star QBs than we have out of Blake Mitchell, Smelley, and Garcia, all four-star guys. If Clifford gets on campus, learns the offense, and turns out to have a good head on his shoulder if and when he gets into a game, I'm sure he has all the tools to be decent if we put the right parts around him. That said, four- and five-star QBs turn out to be the stars more often than not, and, at this point, we should probably consider Clifford a project. That's why I'm giving this pickup a C+. I would like to give our staff a higher grade considering that they didn't have a lot of options when Smelley transferred, but the facts are that we need more talent at QB and we didn't get it. That said, I'm glad we got someone and would like to welcome Andrew to Columbia. May you have a good career as a Gamecock.

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