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South Carolina backup quarterback battle: Connor Mitch makes his move

With less than a week left in spring practice, Mitch has emerged as the most likely candidate to back up Dylan Thompson.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, South Carolina was one play away from having a walk-on step in as its starting quarterback. On Tuesday afternoon, such a scenario seemed far less likely.

For one, there's no reason at all to think that anything is wrong with rising senior and presumptive starter Dylan Thompson. But, should any unforeseen malady befall Thompson, highly-recruited redshirt freshman Connor Mitch has created some separation between himself and Perry Orth, the aforementioned walk-on. Steve Spurrier had previously indicated that the two were tied for the job of QB No. 2.

"Yeah, [Perry] has struggled a bit the last couple of days," Spurrier said following practice on Tuesday afternoon. "I think all that publicity y'all gave him a week ago got to him. So right now Connor Mitch is probably second, and Perry and [Brendan] Nosovitch would be in there third in line right now. But that could change after Saturday's scrimmage."

The spring game will likely go a long way toward further stratifying the Gamecocks' wealth of qualified backups. Though Spurrier is quick to point out that Thompson doesn't quite have as much game experience as it sometimes seems he does, there's not much left to be learned about what Dylan can do with a football in his hands. As such, we'll likely get a long look at Mitch, Orth, and Nosovitch on Saturday.

"We all know Dylan's going to be the quarterback. And probably after the summer we'll have a backup ready."

Starting defensive ends solidified

Darius English and Gerald Dixon entered the spring listed atop the defensive end depth chart and they've held steady through the first three weeks of practice. "Gerald Dixon really came on as the season went last year and did a really good job for us," said second-year defensive line coach Deke Adams. "So I'm excited about him if he can just continue to get better and improve every day."

"Darius has had a quiet but good spring... He's up to about 245-250 (pounds) now," Adams said of the sophomore defensive end who has has well-publicized difficulty adding muscle mass to his 6'6 frame. "He's holding his weight, and he's able to hold ground a lot better than he has in the past."

'Surprise celebrity' expected for off-the-bench play

Steve Spurrier's famous off-the-bench play has become a staple of South Carolina spring games, and the Head Ball Coach seems set on topping Jadeveon Clowney's headline-making grab from last year.

"The off-the-bench play? Oh, you know we're going to do the off-the-bench play. It's going to be a little different this year. I want the fans to know. It is going to be surprise. We've got a surprise celebrity catcher on the off-the-bench play. I can't tell you who it is yet, but we've got a surprise one coming."

For what it's worth, noted South Carolina fan Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has a race in Darlington, S.C. the day after the spring game.