With a brief hiatus this week while USC students are on spring break, spring practice is underway in Columbia. What are the chief narratives regarding what to look for at each position? We'll be covering that question, position by position, in a series of posts this week. Today, we're starting with quarterback.
For the first time since 2011, we're entering spring practice without Connor Shaw entrenched as the sure-fire starter at the quarterback position. Although Dylan Thompson was clearly always going to receive every opportunity to enter 2014 as the starter, many Carolina fans expected Steve Spurrier to foster competition for the spot between Thompson, Brendan Nosovitch, and Connor Mitch this spring. However, Spurrier has been adamant that not only does Thompson have a lead on the position but is firmly entrenched as the starter.
Still, while Thompson has proven himself repeatedly during his time at Carolina and has repeatedly outperformed Nosovitch and Mitch to this point in their careers, Nosovitch and Mitch both bring excellent upside. I'll be curious to see if they're capable of putting true pressure on Thompson.
Nosovitch, a redshirt sophomore, is the most athletic of the three. He's the most likely to allow us to continue to present a potent running threat from the read-option. At 6'1/220, he's bigger than Connor Shaw was, so his running style is a bit more like that of Stephen Garcia, with the addition that like Shaw he's skilled at making his reads. Where Nosovitch has struggled is with his comfort and timing in the passing game. He has also had to work with G.A. Mangus to eliminate mechanical flaws he brought from high school. If he has improved in these regards, then it's hard to see why he couldn't compete for a starting spot.
Mitch, a redshirt freshman, isn't as athletically gifted as Nosovitch, but he came into the program more polished as a passer, and he showed it with a strong performance last spring as an early enrollee. Since then, he's had time to familiarize himself with the offense and to work fine tuning his mechanics, in particular working on developing a quicker release. Mitch has also put on a significant amount of muscle since arriving on campus; at 6'3/227; he has the look of a quality pro-style QB and may be the player on campus most likely to eventually be able to conduct the kind of passing offense Steve Spurrier used to be known for. If he's ready to capitalize on that potential, like Nosovitch, he could certainly put pressure on Thompson.
If Thompson maintains his hold on the position, the question becomes who the backup will be. Nosovitch has the advantage of having gotten some on-field experience in blowouts last year, and his running ability may make him a good change-of-pace option if Spurrier feels the need to rotate QBs. Nosovitch may thus have an edge for backup even if Mitch outperforms him.
What will you be watching for at the QB position this spring?