The 2014 college football season kicks off in 178 hours and counting. For South Carolina football, preparation for Texas A&M began on Monday, meaning the coaches have a good idea of how the depth chart will look and what to expect from their respective units on August 28th. Since practices have been closed for the last two weeks however, those of us in the general public and the media have nothing to do but read these columns and speculate among ourselves. That said, here are 7 questions that will hopefully make for entertaining and provocative discussions over the next 7 days:
4) How good is Dylan Thompson?
At this point, it’s hard to say.
One the one hand, he is 3-0 as a starter, including an impressive road win over the then no. 12 Clemson Tigers. In that game, Thompson was 23-41 for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He added 38 yards on the ground, none of them more important than the 20 yards he picked up on a designed quarterback draw on a crucial third and 19.
One the other hand, one of those starts would have likely been a loss to Missouri if Connor Shaw’s late heroics had not saved Thompson’s start. In the first three quarters of that game, Thompson was 15-27, for 222 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. While that is by no means a terrific stat line, there should be an asterisk next to it that notes Mike Davis’ two fumbles inside the Missouri 30-yard line. Had he held on to one or both of those, particularly the one on the 2-yard line, the game would have unfolded differently, perhaps with Thompson going the distance and winning it.
Or maybe he would have lost it.
On paper, at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he looks more like a prototypical quarterback than Connor Shaw did, and though he is not AS MOBILE as Shaw, he can still move well in and around the pocket.
Most of Thompson’s reputation thus far, aside from being Robin to Connor’s Batman in terms of work ethic and spelling the oft banged up Shaw, has been that he has a big arm. That, and an increased propensity for throwing down field. (I know that was technically a comma splice, but IT’S STYLISTIC OK!)
As Shaw proved last season, he is no slouch in the long ball department, but Thompson is still likely bigger and stronger, so it makes sense that he would have the deep ball potential and risk airing it out more often.
The primary criticism of Thompson heading into this year was his completion percentage, only 55% for his career. This mark will need to improve significantly for him to lead his team to an SEC Championship, as well his TD-INT ratio. With 14 touchdowns and five interceptions, he is nearly at a 3:1 ratio, a far cry from Connor Shaw stupefying 24:1. Shaw also finished as the school’s all-time leader in completion percentage at over 65%. Quarterback coach G.A. Mangus recognizes how absurd Shaw’s production was, and has expressed that Thompson getting his completion percentage up to around 60% and his TD-INT ratio to nearly 5:1, both of which would be impressive marks, is a primary goal of his this year.
As far as intangibles are concerned, if ever there was anyone willing and able to take over the starting job from the winningest quarterback in school history though, it would be Thompson.
According to Wes Mitchell of Gamecockcentral, the workout schedule that Thompson put together for himself this offseason was even more rigorous than the regiment that he and Shaw did together last season. He tweeted out a picture of himself and A.J. Cann getting working out in a snow-covered Williams-Brice Stadium with the caption “when you’re hungry you never miss a meal.”
Thompson’s leadership abilities are innate and cannot be overstated. Always a diligent worker and student of the game, Thompson has taken a on, not only the leader-by-example role, but he has also become one of the team’s vocal leaders, something that also comes naturally to him, or one would suppose considering his resume, which consists of speaking to nearly 75 church groups in his time at USC.
Thompson has a lot going for him: size, strength, unparalleled work ethic, encyclopedic knowledge of the Gamecock offense, a deep and talented receiving corps, and an experienced offensive line. All of these should spell success for the redshirt senior, but he still has to go out and play the games.
Be sure to check out the rest of the countdown right here!