The Gamecocks had their first scrimmage of fall camp this Saturday. The offense got the better of the defense. As Steve Spurrier emphasized in his post-practice interview, the offense never had to punt during the scrimmage, which Spurrier believed might have been a first during his time in Columbia. Indeed, this might be the first time I've read a preseason practice report during the Spurrier era when the message was that the offense seemed to be ahead of the defense.
Granted, you have to take the offense's success with a grain of salt, as the Gamecocks' two starting defensive ends didn't practice, including Jadeveon Clowney, Carolina's best player. Both Clowney and Chaz Sutton sat out with minor injuries, not that they, particularly Clowney, would have gotten a lot of reps anyways. Still, when considering whether the results of the scrimmage suggest that offense will be the team's strength, you obviously have to recognize that the defense not having its strength played a role in how things played out between the two sides.
One of the interesting things to note about the scrimmage is that Dylan Thompson got the better of Connor Shaw. Thompson was 5-7 for 74 yards, including a 31-yard hookup with Shamier Jeffery. Shaw was only 3-10 for 27 yards, including a pick. Spurrier praised Thompson's performance, which included leading two strong TD drives. Spurrier also, though, pointed out that Shaw may have been a little stiff from getting a lot of reps last week.
It'll be interesting to see if Thompson is able to make a serious run at the starting job. You can count me among those who have generally thought that Shaw is going to get the lion's share of the significant playing time this year, but Thompson is certainly fighting to make good on his chance to challenge Shaw. It's worth noting that as the younger QB who hasn't gotten many reps as a serious contender for the starting job until now, Thompson may have a bit more upside at this point than Shaw does. Both QBs have shown weaknesses at times; Shaw needs to get the ball out and trust his receivers to make plays more often, whereas Thompson puts the ball in danger sometimes with his gunslinger mentality. Hopefully both are improving in these areas. Yet whereas it feels like we've probably seen enough of Shaw to know roughly what we're going to get with him, perhaps Thompson has only begun to tap his potential and is making serious strides now that he's getting more serious work at practice. It certainly seemed that he was trending towards being a more careful reader of defenses in the Michigan game and spring practice, while still getting the ball out and making plays down field. That continues to be the case now.
Granted, while competent in the zone-read, Thompson will never be an elite running quarterback, while Shaw gives us a game-changer in that regard. With the team showing a strong running game with Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds, and Shon Carson, Shaw's ability to add dynamism to what will likely be the centerpiece of our offense might be what continues to set him apart as the starter. Reports continued to be good on this front after this scrimmage, with Spurrier praising the offensive line for improved run blocking and the backs for hard running. While Wilds led the team in rushing with Davis not far behind, Carson continued to be a surprise performer who drew positive attention from the coaches. He'll almost certainly get some looks as change-of-pace back this year, and Spurrier pointed out that he's confident Carson can go 20-25 carries a game if needed. As we've seen many times in recent years, injuries happen frequently at this position, so if Carson keeps working hard and is patient, it's probably more likely than not that he'll get an opportunity to show what he can do on Saturdays.