Connor Mitch's journey to South Carolina ultimately started with Stephen Garcia. A talented four-star quarterback with a troubled mind, it was Garcia who helped pilot South Carolina to the wins needed to re-establish a place in the national conversation. After a string of winning seasons, recruiting started to become a deciding factor for our success, luring in talented players such as Marcus Lattimore, Devin Taylor, Jadeveon Clowney, and Connor Shaw. Following Stephen Garcia's dismissal from the program, Shaw took the reins and led us to several extremely successful campaigns, finishing in the Top 10 each year he was the starter. During Shaw's junior campaign, Coach Steve Spurrier invested in the future at the QB position and got a commitment from Connor Mitch, a highly sought-after four star quarterback. With Dylan Thompson, a proven starter, waiting in the wings, Mitch was expected to take over in 2015 and be "The Guy" until his graduation.
And yet here we are, with Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth penciled in as the top two options on the depth chart, while Mitch observed from the sideline. Now news has surfaced that he's going to graduate and transfer, leaving two years of eligibility. After hearing this, one can't but wonder how this former four-star fell this far. So let's take a look at what has happened to Connor Mitch
Mitch was rated as a four-star pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com, and was well received by the Gamecock community when he signed in 2013. Mitch scrapped record books during his time at Wakefield High, and ended up with the second most career passing yards in North Carolina high school history. Once he got to Carolina, he was the understudy for Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson for his first three years on campus. After Shaw and Thompson were on to the NFL, Mitch was named the starter, and big expectations were set for the 2015 campaign. Our hopes were dampened as we watched the ineffective mess that was the Gamecock offense against North Carolina. Mitch struggled to get into much of a rhythm and was having troubles with accuracy and consistency. Thanks to two interceptions from the brilliant LB/S Skai Moore, the day was saved.
At this point, many fans, including myself, started to question the quarterback situation moving forward. Mitch was supposed to continue our winning ways in Columbia, yet here we were with a bumbling offense to go along with a porous defense. Then there was the Kentucky game. Down 24-7 at halftime, the energy in Williams-Brice died. After a three-year stretch of being a dominant SEC team with a deafening home crowd, here we stood, down by 17 to Kentucky. At home. As any sports fan knows, there are deflating moments that you suffer through, and that's part of the game. But as you feel the energy leave the building, the supportive chants die out, there is no lower feeling than that. To make matters worse, after the 26-22 loss, it was announced that Connor Mitch would be out indefinitely with a sprained shoulder, opening up the window of opportunity for former walk-on Perry Orth. Orth played
poorly better than expected, and outplayed raw freshman QB Lorenzo Nunez. Despite his valiant efforts, Carolina plunged into a 3-9 season, giving fans everywhere a synchronized shudder.
After the signing of McIlwain, I expected the QB battle to come between McIlwain, Orth, and Mitch. But as time went on, it seemed to be whittled down to Orth and McIlwain, as evidenced by the depth chart released earlier in the spring. So why hasn't Mitch gotten an opportunity to prove his value to the team again? It seemed as if after only 4 games of action and two starts, the coaching staff is ready to move on from the guy once seen as the "QB of the Future". Watching his play from his two starts last year, it was clear to see that he struggled with decision making and accuracy. Despite this, Mitch has a strong arm and flashes good mobility at times, even with an inexperienced offensive line. Overall, he was outplayed by Orth, and that led to the end of his playing career at Carolina.
After barely seeing the field throughout his unspectacular career, it is no surprise that Mitch would transfer. Factor in the presence of McIlwain and Bentley, as well as incumbent starter Perry Orth, and it would be very surprising to see Mitch even sniff the field during the season. The kid definitely has potential, but just wasn't able to realize it during his tenure at South Carolina. It's a sight becoming all too common, as highly recruited QB's can't adjust to the grind of the college game.
And as Connor Mitch moves on to the next step in his playing career, we wish him the best of luck.