Quarterbacks struggle in Gamecocks scrimmage
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) If Steve Spurrier expected to hone in on a starting quarterback Saturday, South Carolina’s scrimmage barely helped.
None of the team’s four passers vying for the starting job stood out in a poor overall performance. Spurrier said quarterbacks Connor Mitch, Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia and Lorenzo Nunez were slow and hesitant to fire balls into receivers.
”We didn’t have a `best’ quarterback,” Spurrier said when asked if any of his passers had an edge. ”You see any best ones?”
None of the quarterbacks were available to media after the scrimmage.
It was easy to understand Spurrier’s disappointment for any of the 2,500 or so who turned out for the hour-long session at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Third-year sophomore Connor Mitch seemed the heir apparent to last year’s single-season passing yardage record setter Dylan Thompson. But Mitch completed just five of 11 passes for 42 yards. He also had an interception in red zone work.
Junior Perry Orth was 3 of 6 for 42 yards and an interception. Second-year freshman Michael Scarnecchia completed 11 of 14 throws for 81 yards while true freshman Lorenzo Nunez was 5 of 8 for 25 yards and an interception.
The only touchdown was a 25-yard completion from Orth to tailback Shon Carson.
”The quarterbacks were a little shaky at times, but it’s just practice,” Spurrier said. ”Hopefully, we can continue on and find out who the best is.”
That deadline is approaching quickly. The Gamecocks open the season Sept. 3 against North Carolina in Charlotte, North Carolina.
”Obviously, we can’t play four of them like we’ve been doing,” Spurrier said.
The four quarterbacks have a combined eight passes in college ball. Spurrier and his offensive staff have charted about every move of the quartet during practices, looking for a starter.
Now, Spurrier might stretch out the decision, maybe up until kickoff at Bank of America Stadium. The last time South Carolina played there to open the 2011 season, Spurrier let little used sophomore Connor Shaw start the game with East Carolina before calling on expected starter Stephen Garcia later on.
While Shaw struggled in that start, he quickly found his footing and let the Gamecocks to three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13.
Only the most optimistic in the stands had thoughts of future success after this scrimmage.
Mitch’s interception came in a goal line sequence when he was pressured out of the pocket and threw the ball only to where linebacker T.J. Gurley could grab it.
Orth was sacked on his first snap and then picked off by cornerback Chris Lammons two plays later.
The crowd buzzed when the 6-foot-3 Nunez, a dual-threat performer from Kennesaw, Georgia, hit the field for the first time. He, too, struggled to move the ball and was intercepted by cornerback Al Harris Jr.
”We’ve got some work to do,” said Brandon Wilds, a fifth-year senior running back who led the ground game with 28 yards on two carries.
Scarnecchia was the most consistent South Carolina quarterback, leading a long, mid-scrimmage sequence where he had stretches of five and four straight completions. That series bogged down as well, ending with a 30-yard field goal by reliable kicker Elliott Fry.
”Scarnecchia did a few good things here and there,” Spurrier said.
The South Carolina offense was not at its full complement. Receiver Pharoh Cooper, a 1,000-yard pass catcher last season, was only back to handle one punt. Senior Jerrell Adams, the only returning tight end with experience, also spent much of the session on the sidelines.
Spurrier likes to test his younger players in scrimmages with people in the stands. It did not go well on the offensive side. The coach said too many receivers lined up incorrectly, leading to several false start penalties.
South Carolina rushers did not make defenders miss, Spurrier said. And when receivers would break free in the open field, the Gamecocks behind center could not connect.
”We’ll look at the tape,” Spurrier said. ”And try and make some good, realistic decisions.”