Christopher Smith

Spurrier Names Dylan Thompson 2014 Starter At QB

Created on Jan. 18, 2014 10:27 PM EST

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has successfully replaced NFL talent the last two years in spite of predictions the Gamecocks would slip, but continuing the three-year streak of 11 wins may be even more difficult in 2014.

Spurrier must find a way to replace a superstar — and I don't mean Jadeveon Clowney.

Connor Shaw may have to sign with an NFL team as an undrafted free agent and hope to catch on as a third quarterback, while Clowney is competing for the No. 1 overall pick. But the senior was tremendous for South Carolina, and despite being overshadowed by an unprecedented crop of SEC quarterbacks, Shaw may have been more important to his team than any of them.

Dylan Thompson will get a chance to keep the Gamecocks passing game on track, and Spurrier went out of his way to declare Thompson the starter less than three weeks after the Capital One Bowl.

Thompson "is without question going to be our quarterback unless he gets hurt," Spurrier told the Columbia State.

The coach didn't declare his strategy, but it isn't a bad idea to try to infuse Thompson with as much confidence as possible. He's by far the Gamecocks' best option at the position, will be a senior and has thrown more than 200 college passes. But he's a far cry from Shaw, as evidenced in the double-overtime win against SEC East champion Missouri. An injured Shaw came off the bench to lead SC to a come-from-behind win.

Thompson did lead South Carolina to a road win against Fiesta Bowl winner UCF, replacing an injured Shaw early in the game. Thompson was 30-of-59 with no interceptions and two touchdowns against Missouri and UCF.

Shaw finished his college career with a 27-5 record as a starter. Many of his contributions can't be encapsulated in a box score, as he often played through injuries the team expected would sideline him and generally made plays in the most crucial situations. Shaw threw 24 touchdowns to one interception in 2013, running for another 558 yards and six scores.

South Carolina's quarterback in 2014 will have the luxury of relying on Mike Davis, a potential preseason All-SEC running back, to share the burden. Davis averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 2013 and also caught 34 passes.

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