The time has come for South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Dylan Thompson. Former starter Connor Shaw has moved on, handing over the reigns to the capable Thompson. The fifth-year senior now wears the mantle of starting quarterback, but the question is how will he fare?
Thompson has proven himself over the last couple seasons, getting mop-up work and spot starting for the injured Shaw on occasion. He’s thrown for 1,827 yards in his career, with 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. Those are pretty decent numbers for a backup not getting all the looks with the No. 1 offense in practice.
This season will be different from the past. Shaw is no longer on the roster and all the pressure and expectation will fall squarely on the shoulders of Dylan Thompson. Most players will tell you that is a much different feeling than being the backp.
Thompson’s numbers indicate that he has the physical ability. Finding 14 touchdowns over two seasons where you only started a handful of games proves that. What we don’t know is what kind of mental toughness Thompson possesses.
Can he grind out through an SEC season with many ups and downs? As far as an SEC schedule goes, the Gamecocks don’t exactly have the toughest of roads. They get Georgia at home, don’t face Alabama or LSU and draw Texas A&M at home in their first game without Johnny Manziel.
The toughest games will come toward the end of the year, where they must go on the road to Auburn, Florida and Clemson. Thompson will have the opportunity to work out the nerves and find his rhythm before facing tough opponents on the road. That’s an important gift for a new starting quarterback.
Another mental question is can he be Steve Spurrier‘s starter for a whole season? Spurrier is famously hard on quarterbacks and it takes another level of mental toughness to deal with the pressure he provides. Thompson has only experienced that in spurts, so it will be another adjustment for him.
Thompson has a great chance to put together a season to remember in his one shot in Columbia. He has a good supporting cast, a schedule that sets up nicely and all the tools to succeed. With him behind center, the Gamecocks should feel good about their chances in 2014.
If he can answer the mental questions, he can be the leader the Gamecocks need and give them a real shot at another SEC East crown.