The thing that stands out the most is the confidence, nearly unwavering.
Just about every year, almost no matter the team and at just about every level, football fans are confident the backup quarterback could be doing a good job — and perhaps even better than the starter. It seems to be something innate in football fandom basically everywhere.
South Carolina is no exception, and on April 25 in Williams-Brice Stadium, Gamecocks reserve Jason Brown stoked a fire that will likely burn through the offseason and into Shane Beamer’s first campaign leading the Gamecocks.
How did he do it? He looked pretty good in a spring game as the No. 4 QB.
This is the kind of nugget that sticks with fans. It stuck out already because Brown, the oldest QB on the roster and an offseason transfer addition, had reached the end of spring last in the rotation when early on it seemed as if he was destined to be a backup at worst.
Presumptive starter Doty came out and looked so-so in the spring game in the only action USC fans will see before the season opener. Brown looked better, albeit against backup defenders. Fans quickly started asking how a spring worth of public comments that Doty was far out ahead in the QB race could produce what they saw.
And you can be sure folks will reference those comments if Doty starts come fall and has some bumps — something that seems a decent possibility given the state of the wide receiver group and where the team is as a whole.
It’s worth noting: The action in South Carolina’s 2021 spring game was a bit unusual on a couple fronts.
Brown had missed the start of spring with an illness. His coaches said he and the other passers were well behind Doty, and rumblings out of camp backed that up.
The other factor was that South Carolina’s defense was already in rough shape — and Brown was matched up with some of the backups of that group.
Brown hit three passes. One went to a four-star receiver-turned-tight end working against that backup group. Another went to one of the offense’s best play-makers going against a walk-on with a 10-inch height disadvantage. (This is not to demean said walk-on, but regular season opponents will probably have more talent there.)
These are things that are hard to take much from. There certainly was not enough to let it simmer into that confidence fans everywhere possess.
We’ve seen this before.
There were calls for Dylan Thompson over Connor Shaw. There was excessive belief that a slew of backups would be the next guy: Lorenzo Nunez instead of Perry Orth, Brandon McIlwain over Orth again, Michael Scarnecchia over Jake Bentley, Ryan Hilinski over Bentley, Doty over Collin Hill.
In some cases, the backup delivered moments. But none grabbed the job and held onto it. Almost every new player got to a point where folks were wondering about the backup (including Doty).
And the key factor to consider: It doesn’t matter right now.
The Gamecocks don’t play for four months. The Luke Doty and Jason Brown of today will not take the field in September against Eastern Illinois.
A lot can change between now and then. It’ll take work. It’ll take unofficial practices and 7-on-7s. It’ll take studying film, learning the playbook, working on footwork and technique.
That reality favors neither passer. Each has enough ability and potential to take the job. They just have to do it.
Beamer said Doty is the starter at the moment, but that doesn’t mean a ton. If Brown shows up and plays like Connor Shaw, he’ll start.
And if he doesn’t start, or backs up Doty and gets a chance, a handful of passes thrown in April still won’t be the sort of thing that can tell us much or inspire the confidence as staunch as what is likely coming.
While Luke Doty was in the game
▪ Five series, nine first downs, USC scored two TDs and kicked one FG
▪ Attempted 7 passes and completed 5 for 54 yards
▪ USC ran the ball 20 times for 149 yards
While Colten Gauthier was in the game
▪ Four series, zero first downs, USC kicked one FG after turnover/short field
▪ Attempted three passes and completed one for 3 yards
▪ USC ran the ball six times for 19 yards
While Connor Jordan was in the game
▪ One series, zero first downs
▪ Attempted one passes and completed zero for 0 yards
▪ USC ran the ball two times for seven yards
While Jason Brown was in the game
▪ One series, four first downs, one TD pass
▪ Attempted five passes and completed three for 47 yards
▪ USC ran the ball three times for 18 yards
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