clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The upper echelon of QB’s to play at the University of South Carolina

These guys could sling the rock.

Capital One Bowl - Wisconsin v South Carolina Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The first step to solving any problem is realizing there is one. Not everything has always been sunshine and rainbows at the University of South Carolina — any and everything in life has its up and downs.

Just like life, quarterback play at Carolina has had its highs and lows. Bad quarterback play will destroy a football team regardless of talent, just like Dickie DeMasi did with the 1989 Gamecocks that were 5-1-1 under Todd Ellis. Having bad play from the most important position on the football field is a huge problem.

I’m not here to tear down players, but realizing the level of any player’s play and being able to analyze it is a huge first step. Not everyone is going to end up in USC’s athletic Hall of Fame, and that is nothing except fact. On a brighter side, there were and will continue to be men who come to the University and excel at their position.

The guys in this list played very well and led their teams to great accomplishments at the time. The few people on this list make me proud to be a fan of the fighting Gamecocks. Also, I have the privilege of watching a guy who has the chance to make it on this list while I’m at Carolina and that excites me like nothing else.

How my ranking works

For one to be a good QB at USC, you have to do 4 things:

  1. Beat Clemson
  2. WIN
  3. Have a good TD to interception Ratio
  4. Hold an above average passing efficiency rating.

I added PER to the list because that judges them based entirely on their play. I confused PER and QBR in my last post and I do apologize for that. I put win on the ranking because to be good at anything you have to be able to win even though that is more of a team effort.

Obviously, the latter two of my way of ranking them matter more because they rank them more as an individual. The other two matter because they show leadership ability and how much they pushed their team. Hope this list doesn't “disappoint” you.

Honorable Mention

These guys don’t go in any order, but I figured they deserved to be right up with the top 3 guys.

Honorable Mention #1: Tommy Suggs

It’s extremely hard to judge a guy who played in 1969, but Tommy brought home the only championship in USC history. He deserves to be in here somewhere. A three year starter for the Cocks, Suggs had a career 118.8 PER, threw for 34-41 TD-Int, and was 15-16 as a starter. His stats aren't the best, but winning a championship puts you a long way.

Honorable Mention #2: Dylan Thompson

The single season record holder for passing yards, Dylan Thompson was a clutch guy for USC. Helping Carolina beat Clemson in 2012, running in to win against Florida in overtime in 2014 and the game winning touchdown pass in the Outback Bowl in 2012 — Dylan was always there when you needed him.

Save for an atrocious defense in 2014, he probably would've gone out on a good note to end his career. Number 17 was a career 40-16 TD-int and 58% thrower, had a overall PER of 140.9 and helped beat Clemson as a sophomore so gotta love him for that.

Honorable Mention #3: Todd Ellis

The voice of the Gamecocks, Todd is one of the most loved guys to ever play at USC. A career record of 24-15 as a starter is only second to Connor Shaw, but my main reasoning for Todd to not be in my personal top 3 is because of the amount of interceptions he threw. 73 picks in only 41 games comes out to over two a game, and that stat is just awfully hard to over look.

He won and he threw for a lot of yards but those interceptions don't have an excuse. Part of being a great QB is not throwing it to the opponent and turning the ball over. A junior season PER of 98, when he threw 9 touchdowns to 21 picks, is hard to look past. Todd was a very good quarterback for the Gamecocks, but individual stats outweigh team stats for QB’s any day. This opinion of Todd is my own, and feel free to disagree.

Honorable Mention #4: Stephen Garcia

My personal favorite QB of all time, Garcia didn't exactly live out expectations mainly because of off field activities. But when Garcia was on, he was something else. I loved the guy for the way he helped bring USC into the national spotlight, but I hate the way his career ended.

His best two years came in 2009 & 2010, but you can't overlook his last year when he left the team after a humiliating loss to Auburn that included a failed alcohol test. Anyway, during his peak, Garcia threw for 37 touchdowns against 24 picks, and guided the Gamecocks to their first and only SEC Championship appearance.

He deserves to be on this list for those two facts, and if 2011 would've been his year, he probably would be top three for me. However, when you leave your team high and dry like he did, it’s hard to make him one of the top three quarterbacks at USC all time.

On a side note, I absolutely love what he and Perry Orth are doing for young signal callers across SC. That is something I never would've thought to see, and hopefully he will guide them in the right direction.

Now for the Actual List

Number 3: Phil Petty

Outback Bowl X

Deciding who came in at number three on this list was extremely hard. It seems to me that Todd Ellis and Phil Petty were right there for the number three spot, but Petty just barely edged him out. A two and a half year starter for Lou Holtz, Phil led the Gamecocks from an 0-11 season to being 8-4 the next year.

That, along with a win over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl in back-to-back years made me put Petty on the top three list. The half of the 0-11 season is still on his record, but I think that speaks to more of a team and experience thing for Petty than for it to blemish his record.

The turn around to reach the Outback Bowl in back-to-back years and win them just goes a long way for me considering the lack of bowl game appearances and wins in USC’s history. Being selected to a bowl game obviously means you had some success during the regular season and winning them means your school is better than whatever the equivalent of that school is from another conference.

To move on to his actual stats, Petty had a 20-17 TD-Int ratio, a combined PER of about 118 those two seasons, and a record of 17-7 during 2000 & 2001. That’s a damn good combo. Without the bitter taste from 1999 and 2000, 2001 wouldn’t nearly seem as sweet as it is. Again, winning means a lot, but his QBR and TD-Int split looks a helluva lot better Ellis’s. This is my personal opinion, and you can agree or disagree.

Number 2: Steve Taneyhill

The Mullet God himself, Steve Taneyhill was an absolute beast when he was on the field. He was probably the biggest trash talker to ever play at USC and we all love him for it. Even though he talked trash to Tennessee as a sophomore and got beat 55-3, we still love him for the swagger he brought.

He saved Sparky Woods’ ass in 1992 when he came in, took over after a 0-5 start, and led the team to 5-6 finish. This 5-6 year also came with a win over Clemson in Death Valley — which is always a plus. Taneyhill has always been known for his luscious hair, and his play was always pretty good.

A four year starter, Steve threw for 61 touchdowns against 31 interceptions, had a career PER of 130, and a win loss record of 22-18-1. The Mullet didn't always win, but his play was something that has only been seen at Carolina a couple of times. Second in career total TD’s at USC, Taneyhill could put the ball in the end zone for the Gamecocks.

Also, having to go through a coaching change in the middle of your collegiate career is something that is very difficult to do, but Taneyhill proved he could play under both coaches. Steve was easily to me the second best quarterback in USC history, but nobody compares to number one.

Number One: Connor Shaw

Clemson v South Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Honestly, if you didn't see this one coming you probably have been under a rock since 1995. Connor Shaw is by far and beyond the best quarterback to EVER play at the University of South Carolina. There’s no doubt in my mind he is, and there won't be any in yours either after you finished reading this article. All of the guys on this list either won, but didn't have good stats, or had good stats, and couldn't always win. Connor Shaw did both.

A three-star recruit, Shaw had only six offers. Luckily, he chose the Gamecocks and never looked back. His career stats go a little like this: 56 TD’s to 16 int’s, 155.9 PER, and a win-loss record of 27-5. Not to mention, he NEVER lost to Clemson and he NEVER lost at home. That’s an absolutely insane stat for you. And with Shaw, I can actually enter the eye test into the equation. Watching him play was absolutely amazing, and I will never have anything but good to say about Connor Shaw.

As a senior, Shaw threw 24 touchdowns to one interception. No. 14 was also the best dual threat QB to ever play at South Carolina and not many of the other guys have that to go with their game. He ran for over 1500 yards as a starter over three years, and had a combined 17 touchdowns on the ground. Not to forget, he came on in the fourth quarter against Missouri while being injured, and came back from being down 17-0 to win in overtime. That’s nothing short of greatness, and Connor Shaw is without a shadow of a doubt the best one to ever do it at USC.


All of these guys I went over absolutely and positively were the best of the best when it comes to the quarterback position in Carolina history. I believe in the order of which I placed all of these men, and all of my opinions are backed up with facts.

Individual stats will always outweigh wins, but when you combine the two, well, that is what equates greatness. If you wanted to switch Phil Petty and Todd Ellis, I would completely understand. I do believe Petty and Ellis are a coin toss, but number one and number two are pretty set in stone to me.

Now, we have a young man named Jake Bentley who may end up on this list one day. I believe the kid has the ability to do it, and I hope he will. It’s hard to not be biased with him considering he's gonna be the quarterback while I attend USC, but I hope he becomes the best.

He’s absolutely got the ability to do it, but ability can only go so far. Again, quarterbacks will absolutely make or break a team’s season (example: Raiders last year right before playoffs, Texans for the last couple of years, etc.). Having a good quarterback and your ability to affect the other team’s quarterback pretty much decides every game. Hopefully this list won’t disappoint any of my readers. If I didn't include a QB you think I should've, please let me know. This is simply my opinion.


To all of my beloved fans who wrote things for me to read on my previous list, I absolutely loved reading your feedback. I’ve developed critical thinking skills over my short life, and hopefully I will develop them even more for the next three years at USC.

No, I’m not a Clemson fan. As much as a traitor you may think I am, I love the University of South Carolina and I have since I was a little kid. However, love does not affect fact. The fact is, some people who played the quarterback position at USC weren't good whatsoever.

I was unbiased as possible on my previous list, and I used the same grading set for this list. The only intention I had was to talk about who were the leaders of the offense during our down years at Carolina, and have a conversation about them. I could easily say mission accomplished.

Anyway, I’m sorry if I “disappointed” any of you. I would like to apologize for the jokes I made about Dickie DeMasi and Chris Smelley. They were simply jokes, and I have no personal vendetta against either of them. The point of a joke is for it to be a joke, and if you took offense to them then I give you my most sincere apologies. I love my Gamecocks, and I’m proud to call myself one. Go Cocks, and Spurs Up!