Football

Gamecocks won’t name QB starter before first game

tdominick@thestate.com

South Carolina is getting close to picking a starting quarterback, but not close to naming one.

“We are not ready to name a starter before Vanderbilt,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Sunday. “Obviously, that’s going to be to our advantage going into the game, a little bit of the unknown that we have.”

That means South Carolina fans – and the Commodores – will have to wait until shortly before kickoff on Sept. 1 to learn whether senior Perry Orth, freshman Brandon McIlwain or freshman Jake Bentley has earned the right to take the first snap.

“I do think as a staff, this coming weekend, we will narrow that down, but I think it’s to our advantage going into this first game to keep things in-house,” Muschamp said. “If somebody had distanced themselves, we probably would have named a starter, but in last night’s scrimmage, there were extremely good plays made at that position by multiple people.”

The Gamecocks held their final full-scale scrimmage of the preseason Saturday night in Williams-Brice Stadium, working through around 150 situational snaps, Muschamp said. The scrimmage was closed to the public and media, and no statistics were released.

“There’s a very strong possibility” that two quarterbacks will play in the first game, Muschamp said.

Orth is the incumbent. He started eight games last year, throwing for 1,929 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. McIlwain, a four-star high school prospect, graduated from high school early and participated in spring practice with the Gamecocks. Bentley, another four-star prep prospect, skipped his senior season of high school entirely and enrolled at South Carolina this summer.

“Experience is a concerning issue for both Brandon and Jake, not so much obviously for Perry,” Muschamp said. “We have a very young football team on that side of the ball. That is a little concerning as far as the experience we are putting on the field with (the quarterback). You always have to evaluate not just one position, but the other 10 on that side of the ball. That’s part of our thought process going through this.”

Orth and McIlwain have alternated practice days with the first-string offense throughout preseason practice, while Bentley has worked mostly with the third-team offense.

“That is not a position I am overly worried about going into the season,” Muschamp said. “I think we’re very competent at the position, and the future of the position is outstanding.”

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