By Rixon Lane
I honestly can't believe I'm having to write this.
When the season started a little over a month ago, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that this topic would actually need to be addressed...but here we go.
Barring an injury, Connor Mitch is not, and will not become, the starting quarterback for the University of South Carolina in the 2014 season.
Dylan Thompson is currently fifth in the Southeastern Conference in passing yards per game (271.8), third in passing efficiency among conference quarterbacks who have completed at least 75 passes (143.4 rating), and sixth in total offense (266 yards per game). Those numbers alone should be enough to silence any voices calling for him to be benched. However, if you need more, let's take a look at a few of the arguments for Connor Mitch to lead the Gamecock offense.
"The season is over...start Mitch now and plan for the future."
Whether fans believe it or not, the rest of the 2014 season still matters for the South Carolina program. How many more games on South Carolina's schedule are potential wins? Five? Six? Now, if Connor Mitch, who has never received any significant playing time at the college level, takes over as starting quarterback and struggles, the way most new starting quarterbacks do, how many games does South Carolina win? Three? Four? It's extremely unlikely that it's seven or eight
The difference between hitting the recruiting trail as a 6-6 team and an 8-4 team is substantial; just look at South Carolina's recruiting classes during the mid-2000's and look at them now. Additionally, South Carolina has just recently become a program that gets the benefit of the doubt from voters in the polls. How else do you explain the Gamecocks opening the season at #9? If South Carolina loses games down the stretch just to break in a new quarterback, it could drastically affect the program's future.
"Mitch was a 4-star, Thompson was a 2-star...he's the better talent"
To make this argument, you have to work from the assumptions that;
1) Quarterbacks do not improve or regress from the time they leave high school
2) Recruiting rankings are never wrong
3) Steve Spurrier is incapable of improving a quarterback during hours upon hours of practice.
If you're seriously making any of those points, I suggest you find a soft place to lie down.
"Dylan Thompson blew his chance to be the starter on Saturday"
Thompson's stat line on Saturday read as follows: 21-of-37, 219 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks.
Here are just some of Connor Shaw's stat lines in South Carolina losses over the past few years:
7-of-21, 161 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks (2013 vs. Tennessee)
19-of-34, 177 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 sacks (2012 vs. LSU)
9-of-20, 72 yards, 2 sacks (2012 vs. Florida)
16-of-25, 128 yards, 1 INT, 5 sacks (2011 vs. Arkansas)
Know how many times Shaw was benched the following week? Zero.
Shaw was never benched due to a poor performance, even when the Gamecocks had Thompson as a backup. Now, with no proven commodity to back him up, you think Dylan Thompson is going to ride the pine?